United Technologies Corp. and Allied Corp. traded press releases yesterday over a story in the Wall Street Journal that UTC had asked its investment bankers to look into a possible $4 billion acquisition of Allied by United Technologies.
Such studies are not unusual in the big-stakes world of corporate finance; companies consider possible acquisition targets all the time. But the deliberations rarely leak out to the world at large. And by the time the dust had settled yesterday, it was hard to tell just which company was stalking the other.
The exchange came on the heels of reports of an internal investigation at United Technologies into charges that UTC Chairman Harry Gray had wiretapped the offices and homes of top UTC executives who might be after his job. One subject of the alleged bugging was former United Technologies executive vice president Edward L. Hennessy Jr. -- who is now chairman of Allied.
UTC replied to the Journal's story yesterday by issuing a terse statement saying that it was not interested in acquiring Allied or Gould Inc., another company the conglomerate had reportedly considering buying.
Allied then issued its own statement. "Allied is not for sale," Hennessy said in the statement -- although the Journal had quoted him as saying a UTC-Allied merger "is a very interesting idea . . . I wouldn't reject it out of hand."
Apparently, United Technologies didn't think Hennessy was opposed either. In fact, it said in a second statement that revised and extended the first that the suggestion of a takeover had come from none other than Hennessy. "Approaches to United Technologies Corp. have been made on several occasions during the past year by Edward Hennessy of Allied Corp. and by others on Mr. Hennessy's behalf," the statement said.
The new statement reiterated, "UTC has absolutely no interest in acquiring Allied Corp." Even so, speculation on Wall Street about a possible takeover of Allied drove the company's stock up $1.25 to $35.75.
The last word, for the day at least, came from Allied. Late in the day, it released a second statement of its own, saying it would not reply to UTC's latest assertions.