The three-way battle to acquire Conoco Inc. stayed in the rhetorical arena today.
Both Seagram -- which is offering $92 a share, or $4.08 billion, for about 51 percent of Conoco stock; and Mobil Corp. -- which is offering a cash and securities package worth $8.2 billion -- took out advertisements in major newspapers to criticize competing offers and tout their own.
Conoco said its board "remains firmly convinced" that a $7.3 billion cash and stock offer from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. "is more advantageous to the company's stockholders than either the Seagram or Mobil offers."
Meanwhile, Wall Street traders and other investors in Conoco are waiting to see if the Justice Department asks Mobil for more information Friday on its offer for Conoco. Mobil's offer, while the richest, has attracted the fewest Conoco shareholders so far, in large part because investors fear a merger of the second and ninth largest oil companies in the country will not pass antitrust scrutiny, Wall Street sources said.
Under law, Mobil must wait 15 days to consummate a merger, and the Justice Department has the right, by asking for additional information, to extend the waiting period 10 more days. If Justice fails to ask for more information, it is an implicit confirmation that the government does not intend to challenge an acquisition on antitrust grounds. Du Pont's waiting period does not expire until Aug. 8. Seagram has cleared the Justice Department and said it will begin paying shareholders Saturday.
Since Du Pont has announced that it has received 39 million shares that have requested payment in cash -- about 300,000 more than it has said it will pay cash for -- Conoco shareholders who want cash for their holdings are faced with tendering either to Seagram at $92 a share or Mobil at $105. Du Pont said shares tendered by Tuesday requesting a cash payment of $95 a share will be paid. Du Pont said it had received another 8.85 million shares asking payment in Du Pont stock and 350,000 shares that did not designate preferred payment.
Du Pont has more than 48.2 million shares in hand, enough to win the bidding war. But stockholders have until Aug. 4 to withdraw and offer them to another bidder.
Last Sunday Seagram had 17 million shares on hand and, assuming none has been withdrawn, is willing to buy another 27.35 million. Although Conoco shareholders cannot withdraw tendered shares after Friday, they can continue to send stock to Seagram until Aug. 5.