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Dell Reported in Buyout Talks with Private Equity

Founder Michael Dell, who has admitted in the past to thinking about taking the company private, owns 15.7% of the company

Dell is in buyout talks with "at least" two private equity firms that would take the PC company-in-transition private, according to a story in Bloomberg Monday afternoon that sent Dell's stock up close to 14% to over $12 a share, roughly what Toni Sacconaghi of Sanford Bernstein thinks Dell's worth.

The report cites two unidentified people with "knowledge of the matter."

Dell refused to comment on rumor and speculation.

Bloomberg called the talks "preliminary" and said they "could fall apart" if the financing can't be arranged or the potential investors can't figure out how to ultimately exit the investment.

The story said several large banks have been contacted about financing. They would need $19 billion just to cover the pre-spike market cap.

The Wall Street Journal waded in much later saying that Dell has been talking to private equity firms for the last two or three months. It added that they were "serious" and could result in a public announcement in the next six weeks. Dell has been approached by private equity before but now its valuation is enticingly low, the paper said.

Founder Michael Dell, who has admitted in the past to thinking about taking the company private, owns 15.7% of the joint, a factor that's supposed to making going private easier.

The company has about $9 billion in debt and about $11 billion in banks mostly outside the US, a potential complication given the tax penalties of repatriating it.

Coincidentally Dell's M&A guy, ex-IBMer David Johnson, just joined the big private equity firm Blackstone as a partner.

Armchair speculators question whether the deal makes sense or could even get done since it could take $25 billion-$30 billion, making it the largest leveraged buyout in years.

Dell has been slowly trying to backstroke away from low-margin PCs by acquiring enterprise storage, services, networking and software but PCs are still 49% of its business and are declining in value.

Gartner said Monday that Dell laptop revenues dropped 26% in Q4 while desktop revenues were off 8%. Units dropped 20.9%. It's losing market share to Apple, Android, HP and Lenovo.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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