By Nadia Damouni and Jessica Toonkel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - T. Rowe Price Associates, one of the most influential opponents of Michael Dell's offer to buy out Dell Inc for about $25 billion, reduced its ownership in the struggling PC maker to a 2.8 percent stake from the 4 percent it held as of March 31, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.
The Baltimore-based asset management firm, which had been the fourth-largest shareholder of Dell, reduced its holdings to 49 million shares from 71.87 million Dell shares at the end of the first quarter, the people said.
It was unclear precisely when the firm, which has called the buyout offer too cheap, unloaded its shares. A T. Rowe spokesman declined to comment.
The reduction in its holding marks the latest development in a months-long contest waged between Michael Dell, who wants to take the company he founded in 1984 private to restructure it, and investors who say his offer undervalues the world's No. 3 PC maker.
T. Rowe had been among the most influential allies of activist investor Carl Icahn and his partner, Southeastern Asset Management Inc, who oppose the offer from Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners.
T. Rowe's opposition has hampered the Michael Dell's takeover bid, a vote on which has been postponed three times for lack of shareholder support.
Icahn, known for taking large stakes in companies he deems ill-managed or undervalued and pushing for change, has put up an alternative offer of his own and threatens to wage a proxy battle to unseat the chief executive and much of the board.
Shares in Dell closed 0.3 percent higher at $13.75.
(Editing by Edwin Chan, Gary Hill and Leslie Gevirtz)