As the countdown to the shareholder vote on the HP-Compaq merger continues, DECUS, a near-defunct user group, is making a comeback.
The group’s head, Alan Dick, says it will stage a one-day event with Compaq in April at which US Compaq executives will give briefings on product strategy.
“There’s a major effort going on by Compaq to keep customers informed about the Alpha to Itanium transition,” Dick says. Compaq announced in June last year that it plans to ditch the Alpha platform in favour of Intel’s Itanium processor by 2004. It promises two further Alpha releases before then.
That issue’s been sidelined, however, by ongoing uncertainty over whether shareholders and regulators will approve Hewlett-Packard’s plan to merge with Compaq. The merger has the blessing of top executives of the two companies, but shareholder resistance centres on the Hewlett and Packard families, who have vowed to use their 18% stock holding to vote against the deal. Last week an institutional investor, Brandes Investment Partners, which holds just over 1% of HP’s shares, also said it opposes a merger.
Dick says his personal view is that the two companies are complementary and would be strengthened by getting together. He says DECUS’s opinion is that if the merger took place, the user group would be in a better position to influence product directions.
According to analyst Gartner, a key indicator of how the shareholder votes on the merger will go will be apparent when Institutional Shareholder Services, “a highly influential proxy-advisory firm that can swing the large institutional investors”, decides which way it will vote early this month. HP shareholders vote on the merger on March 19 and Compaq’s on March 20.
Dick says DECUS will meet at Compaq’s Auckland office on April 10. He says a merger update will also be on the agenda. The group has already survived one merger; it was originally set up by Digital Equipment users, but the name, which stands for Digital Equipment Computer Users Society, lost some relevance when Compaq bought Digital in 1998.