Martin Marietta appeal moved to eve of Vulcan meet

Fri May 18, 2012 1:33pm EDT

(Reuters) - Martin Marietta Materials Inc's (MLM.N) appeal of a lower court ruling that halted its $5 billion hostile tender for rival gravel maker Vulcan Materials Co (VMC.N) was postponed to May 31, the day before a key Vulcan shareholders meeting.

The Delaware Supreme Court had originally scheduled the oral argument for May 25.

Martin Marietta hopes to overturn a decision by Delaware's Court of Chancery that barred for four months both the tender offer and a proxy contest for Vulcan's board as punishment for violating a confidentiality agreement.

Martin Marietta hopes to elect four board members at Vulcan's June 1 annual meeting. While that would be a minority position, Martin Marietta hopes the new board members could convince its bigger rival to accept the merger offer.

Martin Marietta said merging the two companies would produce $250 million in annual cost savings.

If the Supreme Court overturns the lower court ruling, it could take an "aggressive" move and order the Court of Chancery to postpone the Vulcan meeting until new proxy materials could be prepared, according to Larry Hamermesh, a professor at Widener University School of Law in Wilmington Delaware.

Hamermesh said the new hearing date does not mean the high court has already made a decision on the appeal. He said the delay was likely a reflection of the time the court feels it needs to prepare.

"I'm not sure how it would play out if they announced a reversal on that afternoon. It could be quite a fire drill," he said.

Martin Marietta declined to comment. Vulcan did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

(Reporting By Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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