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HP merger wins another endorsement

In a symbolic victory for Hewlett-Packard, a major group of HP customers says that it plans to vote its shares in favor of the company's bid to acquire Compaq.

In a symbolic victory for Hewlett-Packard, a major group of HP customers said Monday that it plans to vote its shares in favor of the company's bid to acquire Compaq Computer.

Interex, the International Association of HP Computing Professionals, said its board voted unanimously to support the deal. An Interex representative could not immediately say how many shares of HP's stock the group owns.

"We believe our members will enjoy the inherent benefits of a marriage between HP and Compaq," Interex Chairman Bob Combs said in a statement. "The merger of these two industry pioneers will give Interex members broader access to leading technology, R&D programs, marketing, and service and support, enabling them to strengthen their computing platforms."

Although it is not a major shareholder, the decision by Interex is an indication of how one important group of customers feels. And the decision follows on the heels of a similar move by ITUG, whose members use high-end Compaq systems. That decision came the same day as HP won a key endorsement from Institutional Shareholder Services, an advisor to mutual funds and other large investors.

The decision arrives as HP and dissident board member Walter Hewlett proselytize ahead of next week's vote of HP shareholders. Both sides expressed confidence Monday that they had enough support to garner the necessary majority of shares in the March 19 vote.