Wishing Wells Would Up Its Bid

WELLS FARGO'S $10.6 BILLION offer was pretty attractive--but not what First Interstate had in mind. So on Nov. 6, after weeks of rumored talks with putative white knights, First Interstate revealed a board-approved agreement to merge with Minneapolis-based First Bank System instead. Its value: $10.2 billion. "Absolutely compelling," First Interstate Chief Executive William Siart raved. Investors were less impressed. "It's unfortunate the First Interstate board isn't thinking about shareholder value," says analyst Thomas Brown of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities. They want Wells to sweeten its offer, and analysts say a new bid could be up to $820 million higher.

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