Its shareholders may not be so happy today, but Ikon Office Solutions Inc. came out ahead in the initial phases of its stock buyback program - buying its shares back at market rate instead of at a premium, as expected.

The Malvern-based office copier distributor and document management company will spend $295 million to buy 22.69 million shares, or 19.6 percent of outstanding shares, at about $13 a share, although the exact price is not final.

Under pressure from a major shareholder, Warren Lichtenstein of Steel Partners II, a New York investment company, the Malvern-based office copier distributor and document managed company, agreed to spend $500 million to buy back its own shares, starting with a $295 million buyback program through a Dutch auction that ended at 12:01 a.m. today.

In a Dutch auction, shareholders offer to sell their shares at a price, in this case in a range between $13 and $15 a share. The buyer starts from the bottom up, buying shares until it reaches the buyback amount.

Lichtenstein, who owns 10.7 percent of the company, had been so confident that Ikon's stocks were undervalued that he initially said he would sit out the $13 to $15 Dutch auction. When a company buys its own shares, the shares still in the hands of other shareholders become worth more.

But then, less than 48 hours before the auction expired, Lichtenstein changed his mind and said he would sell "a substantial amount" of shares in the auction. It is unknown how many shares he tendered.

In the spring, Lichtenstein had urged the company to purchase 39 percent of its shares at $17.50 per share, spending $850 million to do so.

Ikon shares have generally declined from highs in the mid $17-a-share range in January. Since the auction was announced in late November, the shares have been trading in the upper $12 range, up slightly from lows just under $11. More than 6.6 million shares changed hands yesterday, the last day of the auction.

Average daily volume over the last three months has been 1.1 million shares. Ikon was trading at $12.84 a share this morning on the New York Stock Exchange.

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or jvonbergen@phillynews.com.