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Ireland: Dell Reportedly Considering Acquisitions or Possible IPO

US computer maker Dell Technologies is exploring a range of options that could see the world’s largest privately held technology company grow further through acquisitions or go public, people familiar with the matter said late on Thursday.

Dell’s board of directors will meet later this month to consider the biggest shake-up in the company’s history since it acquired data storage provider EMC for $67 billion (€54 billion) in 2016, the sources said.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company, headed by its founder Michael Dell, is under pressure to boost its profitability after the EMC deal failed to deliver the cost savings and performance it projected, while higher component costs and a challenging data storage market have eroded its margins.

Dell is reviewing a list of several possible acquisition targets that would boost its cash flow and expand its offerings, the sources said.

The company’s review is at its very early stages and no deal is certain, according to the sources, who requested anonymity to discuss the deliberations. The company did not respond to a request for comment outside of regular US business hours. The news of Dell’s review was first reported by Bloomberg.

Fierce Competition

Dell is also considering a sale or initial public offering (IPO) of one of its fast-growing divisions, Pivotal Software, the sources said. It may also consider a transaction with its majority-owned VMware, a virtualisation software maker. VMware shares, which have gained more than 62 per cent in the past 12 months, touched an all-time high on Thursday.

Dell, whose technology portfolio spans servers, displays, workstations and gaming PCs, also has a security unit, RSA, and a cloud platform called Boomi.

The company has struggled with fierce competition in the storage market, as cloud-based rivals such as Amazon. com’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure put pressure on prices. Dell’s infrastructure chief, former EMC executive David Goulden, departed last autumn, and the firm has since been working to reorganize its storage operations.

The PC market, which Michael Dell helped shape by founding Dell in 1984 as a University pre-med freshman with $1,000 in savings, has remained stagnant due to the popularity of smartphones and tablets, shrinking by 0.2 per cent in 2017, according to International Data Corporation.

A bright spot in Dell’s business has been its servers, helping its total net revenue grow to $56.7 billion (€45.6 billion) in the nine months to November 3rd, from $41.6 billion (€33.4 billion) a year earlier. However, the company’s operating expenses soared from $10 billion (€8 billion) to $17.3 billion (€13.9 billion), leading to an operating loss of $3 billion (€2.4 billion), up from a $1.6 billion (€1.2 billion) operating loss a year ago.

An Exit Route for Silver Lake

Another consideration for Dell in its deliberations is offering a path to private equity firm Silver Lake to cash out on its investment in the company. Silver Lake helped bankroll Michael Dell’s $24.9 billion (€20 billion) deal in 2013 to take the company private and owns about 18 per cent of the company.

A stock market listing for Dell would allow Silver Lake to gradually begin selling down its stake. What is more, an IPO of Dell, or a divestiture of one or more of its assets, would help it pay down debt faster, saving it money on expensive interest payments, for which it currently pays about $2 billion (€1.6 billion) annually.

Dell’s $52.5 billion (€42.2 billion) debt pile is expected to become more burdensome this year because the US tax reform enacted last month caps a company’s ability to deduct interest expense to 30 per cent of its annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

Credit: Reuters

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