The leaqding corporate protagonists in the mutibillion-dollar battle to acquire Conoco Inc., the nation's ninth-largest oil company, called one another names, postured and spent time in the courts today.
But shareholders trying to decide among three competing proposals for Conoco -- from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Mobil Oil Co. and Seagram Co. -- were not presented with any new offers in the escalating takeover war.
Conoco, which wants Du Pont to win the battle, announced that it obtained New York Stock Exchange approval to list 15.9 million shares of its stock that now is in the company treasury. Conoco plans to sell those shares to Du Pont, which has a $7.2 billion cash-and-stock offer to buy the 86 million shares of Conoco stock now in the hands of the public.
Mobil earlier this week went to court to try to block the sale of the 15.9 million shares. It gives Du Pont a leg up in the takeover battle.
Mobil, for its part, has offered a combination of cash and securities totaling $7.7 billion for Conoco stock and has suggested it might boost the offer to $7.9 billion, but it has not done so yet.
Conoco took yseagram to court alleging that it gave certain Conoco shareholders advance warning before the Canadian distiller boosted its bid for 51 percent of Conoco stock from $85 to $92 a share on Thursday. Conoco, which earlier lost a bid to block Seagram's bid, accused Seagram of "manipulative" conduct.
Seagram, whose bid is an all-cash one worth $4.08 billion, said the Conoco suit was "without merit" and called it "one more transparent step in a parade of desparate tactical maneuvers designed to frustrate Conoco shareholders in their efforts to weigh the merits" of the three competing bids.
Du Pont's freiendly bid would keep current Conoco management in place. Neither Seagram's bid for 51 percent of Conoco stock nor Mobil's offer to acquire the entire company makes such a promise.
Seagram accused Conoco of further "desparate" tactics in getting the governments of Dubai and Norway to say that a Seagram takeover might force those countries to take actions that would be harmful to shareholders of Conoco.
In response to a letter from Conoco's board of directors, the Olso government this morning said Conoco's participation in North Sea oil leases might be reconsidered if Seagram won the bidding battle. Last week Dubai said it had concerns about Seagram, as well. Seagram's Texas Pacific subsidiary had oil leases in Dubai several years ago, and a Seagram spokesman said the company and the Middle East oil Kingdom have cordial relations.