Long buyout battle could erode customer confidence in Dell, analysts say

Michael Dell needs to get his privatization deal done quickly to avoid harming his business

By , IDG News Service |  

"If this deal is going to be accomplished, it will be because the big investors have put the document under the microscope and they're convinced their ownership is being ... rewarded. Otherwise they are going to turn it down," he said.

It's uncertain if there will be a concrete new offer before Friday's deadline, but analysts expect that Michael Dell will have to raise his current offer.

"I expect that the final price per share to acquire Dell will be higher than what was initially offered," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said via email. "I also believe that if Michael Dell is not involved in the final deal, that the winning bidders could be paying a premium for the company that will be difficult to manage or sustain," he said.

Any wrangling in the buyout process could erode Dell's value and shake customer confidence, and it's in the best interest of all parties to get a deal done soon, King said.

There are multiple scenarios under which Dell could get purchased, but the new owners need to be on board with Michael Dell's vision of moving further into enterprise systems and software and dialing down on PCs, said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

Dell has been trying to move away from low-margin PCs and instead emphasize higher-value hardware, service and software offerings. It has bought around 25 companies since 2007 to expand its enterprise product portfolio, but is struggling to package the products into cohesive offerings. Dell has said its enterprise plans will remain intact in case of a buyout.

Shareholders are right to be suspicious of Michael Dell because he is on both sides of the proposed deal, Kay said, meaning his interest in buying the company could conflict with shareholders' desire to get the highest price for their shares. Dell may also try to block any deal that moves away from the direction he has laid out for the company, Kay said.

"I don't see Michael cooperating with any other group. So, an alternative proposal seems like a long shot," he said.

It's unlikely a rival deal would match Michael Dell's vision for the company, according to Ezra Gottheil, analyst at Technology Business Research, so the company could remain public if Michael Dell's original offer is not accepted.

"He has a vision for Dell that includes all the major pieces, and he would prefer staying public to dismemberment," Gottheil said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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