However, Willamette, which has fiercely resisted the takeover, said the
vote was too close to call and the results would not be known for two to
The shareholder vote, held at Willamette's annual meeting, was seen as a
crucial test of shareholder support for Weyerhaeuser's bid. The group has
said it would walk away from the offer if it did not gain a foothold on
Yesterday, however, Weyerhaeuser said that based on the number of proxies
it had submitted to an independent election agency, it appeared that
Willamette shareholders had elected the three director candidates nominated
Observers noted that while Weyerhaeuser had submitted a certain number of
proxies, the company could not know how many proxies submitted by Willamette
might invalidate those provided by the other.
Weyerhaeuser has offered USDollars 5.5bn in cash as well as USDollars
1.7bn in assumed debt. Willamette has said it is not for sale, but officials
have acknowledged they could negotiate if Weyerhaeuser raised its Dollars 50
per share offer.
Weyerhaeuser yesterday extended its offer until June 28, and said that as
of Wednesday evening, Willamette shareholders had tendered and not withdrawn
about 31m shares, or about 27 per cent of the group's outstanding shares.
That appears to mark the lowest level of support for Weyerhaeuser's bid
since the offer was first made in November.
For many observers, the nasty battle is a classic case of a company using
US takeover laws to protect its independence, at the expense of its
shareholders' interests. Gary Lutin, a former investment banker who has been
trying to bring both companies together, said the close results indicate
that neither company offered an alternative that provided clear benefits to
"The board, whoever they now are, need to focus on shareholder benefits
rather than pride," he said.
But Steven Rogel, the Weyerhaeuser chief executive who held the same
position at Willamette, said he was confident the results would show that
Willamette shareholders want an agreed transaction. Weyerhaeuser reiterated
that it was willing to increase its offer if Willamette agreed to negotiate.
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited