Court Speeds Up Columbia Case
The Chancery Court of Delaware is stepping up the pace on a
lawsuit filed on June 24 against Columbia Energy Group by NiSource,
NiSource said yesterday. The court has called for an accelerated
schedule for the case in which NiSource is seeking to compel
Columbia to reopen its 1999 annual meeting so that another director
can be elected to a vacant seat on Columbia's board.
Only four directors were elected at Columbia's annual meeting
last month even though five directors were required to be elected
to maintain a minimum number dictated by Columbia's certificate of
incorporation and by-laws, according to NiSource. NiSource intends
to nominate a director to fill the vacant seat as part of its
effort to buy Columbia for $68/share, or about $5.7 billion.
NiSource said it also intends to nominate a slate of directors to
Columbia's board at Columbia's next annual meeting.
NiSource took its unsolicited offer to Columbia shareholders
last Friday and plans to keep it on the table until Aug. 6.
Meanwhile, Columbia has urged its shareholders to take no action
until its board has reviewed the transaction.
Columbia's board rejected the same offer earlier this month, and
Columbia CEO Oliver G. (Rick) Richard III said the company is "not
for sale and is not interested in any merger transaction in which
another company acquires control of Columbia." Columbia is
considering a significant share repurchase program potentially
including 10% of its outstanding shares as an interim way to
enhance shareholder value and turn around Columbia's recent poor
stock performance, a report by PaineWebber stated.
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