Dell nearly triples profits in fourth quarter

Company's large enterprise, SMB units show double-digit revenue growth

Strong enterprise sales helped computer maker Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) almost triple its earnings in the fourth quarter, the company said Tuesday.

Dell reported fiscal fourth quarter net income of $927 million, or 48 cents a share, up 178 percent more than the year ago's profit of $334 million, or 17 cents a share.

(Also see: Dell's Q3 profit surges, and so do shares)

Though Dell finished Tuesday's regular session down 18 cents, or 1.3 percent, to 13.91, shares soared as high as 15.10 in after-market trading following the earnings release.

Dell's revenue for the fourth quarter was $15.69 billion, up 5 percent from $14.9 billion a year ago.

While Dell just missed consensus revenue estimates of $15.75 billion, it easily surpassed profit estimates of 36 cents per share.

Dell said enterprise products and services sales of $4.6 billion equalled 29 percent of the company's overall fourth-quarter revenue. Other highlights:

* Large Enterprise revenue was $4.7 billion, up 12 percent from Q4 2009.

* Public revenue was $4 billion, up 4 percent and fueled by server and storage sales.

* Small and Medium Business revenue was $3.7 billion, up 12 percent.

* Consumer revenue was $3.3 billion, down 8 percent, a decline Dell attributes to last year's Windows 7 launch.

Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, said in a statement, "I’m very pleased with our fiscal year results and the strong performance we’re seeing in our commercial businesses. We remain focused on developing and acquiring new technologies and capabilities, and our IT solutions portfolio has never been stronger."

Which brings us to the rumor that Dell might be acquiring chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices. More on that later.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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