JPMorgan Chase was in talks on Sunday night for a deal that would quintuple its offer for Bear Stearns, the beleaguered investment bank, in an effort to pacify angry Bear shareholders, according to people involved in the negotiations.
The sweetened offer is intended to win over stockholders who vowed to fight the original fire-sale deal, struck only a week ago at the behest of the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department.
Under the terms being discussed, JPMorgan would pay $10 a share in stock for Bear, up from its initial offer of $2 a share -- a figure that represented a mere one-fifteenth of Bear's going market price.
The Fed, which must approve any new deal, was balking at the new offer price on Sunday night after several days of frantic, secret negotiations, these people said. As a result, it was still possible the renegotiated deal might be postponed or collapse entirely, said these people, who were granted anonymity because of their confidentiality agreements.
If the Fed were to reject the new proposal, it could set off a furor among shareholders of both firms that the government was preventing them from making a fair deal.
In an unusual move, Bear's board was seeking to authorize the sale of 39.5 percent of the firm to JPMorgan in an effort to move closer to majority shareholder approval. Under state law in Delaware, where the companies are incorporated, a company can sell up to 40 percent without shareholder approval.
The renegotiation, which would set a sale price of more than $1 billion, comes after a tumultuous week on Wall Street and in Washington because of the near collapse of Bear and the hastily devised deal to save it.
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