It's almost as if no one cares about earnings at Airgas
Both industrial gas suppliers reported better-than-expected profit and revenue on Friday as sales to electronic makers jumped and gas distribution became more efficient.
Yet shares of both companies barely budged, with Wall Street instead turning its attention to next Tuesday. A Delaware court will consider whether to void a poison pill provision that Airgas has been using to defend itself against Air Products' $5.9 billion offer.
The real fireworks are next week, William Blair & Co analyst Ryan Merkel said. The results from Airgas were a little better than people were thinking, and with Air Products, I thought the outlook was pretty good there.
The long-running M&A saga - Air Products first went public with its offer on February 5, 2010 -- has been marked by dramatic ups and downs and shows little sign of abating any time soon if the Delaware court upholds Airgas' right to use the poison pill.
A poison pill effectively lets shareholders increase the total share count at a discount to ward off a potential acquisition.
Airgas Chief Executive Peter McCausland, who founded his company in the 1980s, is expected to feature prominently in the court hearing next week. His shareholders ousted him from the chairman of the board position last fall in a vote widely seen as supportive of Air Products' bid.
McCausland ended back on the board after its size was increased to accommodate him.
Delaware Chancellor William Chandler upheld part of the shareholder vote dealing with a proposed January Airgas meeting.
However, Delaware's top court eventually overturned Chandler, fueling speculation that the jurist wants to have an air-tight case so that his final ruling on the poison pill cannot be overturned.
Rumors have been circulating for years that Delaware's courts want to overturn poison pill provisions, which are illegal in some countries.
Regardless of which way the courtroom drama unfolds next week, both Airgas and Air Products have been aggressively lobbying arbitrage investors, who now hold a majority of Airgas stock.
Just after posting its quarterly results on Friday, Airgas boosted its quarterly dividend by 16 percent, in part to highlight often-stated claims that it is financially healthy and has long-term growth potential.
Air Products raised its fiscal second-quarter profit forecast to a range above Wall Street's expectations.
In morning trading, shares of Air Products were down 7 cents at $87.19 and shares of Airgas were up 10 cents at $63.65.
Rivals of both companies include Praxair
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Matt Daily, editing by Matthew Lewis)