Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina mounted an impassioned defense of HP's proposed merger with Compaq Computer a week after heirs of HP's co-founders said they planned to vote thumbs-down on the deal.
But HP's largest shareholder, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, has yet to weigh in on the merger.
Fiorina, using a stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings announcement as a backdrop, told analysts in a conference call: "Change and risk-taking can be unsettling, even frightening for some. But preserving the status quo and taking small steps to improve our competitive position will not serve anyone's interests,not customers, not shareowners and certainly not the highly motivated people that represent the best of HP and Compaq."
HP moved up its earnings announcement amid opposition to the proposed merger from Walter Hewlett and David Packard, the sons of HP's co-founders.
HP surprised Wall Street by posting better-than-expected results for its fiscal fourth quarter ended Oct. 31. Excluding restructuring charges for layoffs and other items, the company reported earnings of 19 cents per share.
The Wall Street consensus was for 8 cents per share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.
HP generated sales of $10.9 billion for the quarter.
"Despite the actions by some individuals, I think it's way too early to conclude that this merger will not occur," Fiorina said.
The individuals who pose the biggest threat to the deal appear to be the younger Hewlett and Packard. But while the two sons are vocal in their opposition, the swing vote in the deal could be the Packard Foundation, which owns about 10 percent of HP. George Vera, CFO of the foundation, said it likely won't decide which way to vote until late December or early January.
"I'm really happy that the company seems to have done reasonably well under the circumstances," Vera said of HP's fourth-quarter earnings. "That's a plus, no question."
But Fiorina has made no new overtures to the foundation's board since the heirs came out against the deal on Nov. 6, he said. "Whether she does in the next month or so, we don't know," Vera said. "But we don't have an appointment with her to come see us."
Tech Data Chairman and CEO Steve Raymund said he hopes the foundation acts quickly.
"The Packard Foundation seems to be the one calling the shots," he said. "My hope is for them to act quickly. Uncertainty is not good for the channel or the market."
SCOTT CAMPBELL contributed to this story.