Fujifilm Holdings Corp's merger with U.S. firm Xerox Corp was temporarily blocked on Friday following a court ruling, handing its activist investors a win after they sued to stop the deal.
The ruling reopened nominations to Xerox's board on Friday after investor Darwin Deason filed a lawsuit against the company last month opposing the deal and asking to add his own nominees to the board.
The preliminary injunction came a day after the companies reopened deal talks on their $6.1-billion merger. They are discussing a higher price after Xerox, under pressure from top investors, asked to renegotiate the terms, Reuters had reported earlier.
Judge Barry Ostrager of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, granted the injunctions, saying Xerox Chief Executive Officer Jeff Jacobson sought to conclude the deal even though he was advised to end negotiations.
"The facts abduced at the evidentiary hearing clearly show that Jacobson, having been told on Nov. 10 that the Board was actively seeking a new CEO to replace him, was hopelessly conflicted during his negotiation of a strategic acquisition transaction that would result in a combined entity of which he would be CEO," the ruling said.
The proposed merger is opposed by Deason and Carl Icahn, two of Xerox's top shareholders, who have said the agreement dramatically undervalues Xerox.
Fujifilm said it would consider all options, including whether to appeal against the decision.
"We disagree with and are disappointed by the judge's ruling," the Japanese firm said in a statement.
"We strongly believe that all Xerox shareholders should be able to decide for themselves the operational, financial, and strategic merits of the transaction," it said.
Xerox said it "will immediately appeal the court's decision".
"Xerox disagrees with the court's ruling to enjoin the shareholder vote on our proposed combination with Fuji Xerox and to waive the advance notice bylaw," the U.S. firm said in a statement. "The company strongly believes that its shareholders should be allowed to exercise their right to vote on the transaction and decide for themselves."
In its statement, Xerox said, "The Xerox board undertook a rigorous process to reach its decision to approve the proposed transaction, including a comprehensive review of the company's strategic and financial alternatives, as well as potential transaction structures in its negotiations with Fujifilm over a 10-month period."
"Xerox's board believes that a combination with Fuji Xerox is the best path forward to create value for the Company and all of its shareholders," Xerox said.
Deason could not be reached immediately for comment.
n February, Deason asked a court to block the merger with Fujifilm Holdings, arguing the U.S. photocopier maker's board had failed shareholders by approving a deal that undervalues the company.
Icahn and Deason, who own a combined 15 percent of the U.S. printer and copier maker, have called the deal structure "tortured" and "convoluted".