Xerox surges after report of merger talks with Japan’s Fujifilm

Xerox Corp. shares surged in premarket trading Thursday following a report in The Wall Street Journal that linked it to a merger with Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp. amid pressure from activist investor Carl Icahn to boost returns for the the photocopying and printing icon.

The Journal said a full takeover of the Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox isn’t part of the discussions, but noted that an existing joint venture based in the Asia-Pacific region between the two group could make a deeper tie-up more likely and that a change of control in the company could take place.

Xerox shares charged 5.4% higher in premarket trading, indicating an opening bell price of $32.

Last week, analysts at UBS said Ichan’s pressure on the group would have a “neutral to positive impact” on its share price given its “lackluster performance” amid a boardroom battle between the legendary activist and the former stalwart of American business technology.

Icahn has been pushing to add a number of directors on Xerox’s 11-person board, and told TheStreet’s sister publication, TheDeal, last month that his true aim is to remove CEO Jeff Jacobson, whom he argued hasn’t performed well during his short tenure at the helm of the group.

“A key issue for Icahn is a large segment of the Xerox board, which he contends are over-tenured and not willing to bring in a chief executive that will help drive value,” TheDeal’s Ron Orol wrote on Jan. 4. “He suggested that some directors have been on the board for too long, including chairman Robert Keegan, Ann Nolan Reese, William Hunter and former Citigroup CEO Charles O Prince.”

“Icahn often pushes for capital distributions and M&A and as part of his activist campaigns. In the interview with The Deal, Icahn suggested that stock buybacks or a sale of the business right now are not a top priority, but it could be if the company’s situation improves,” Orol added.

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