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Microsoft, Investors Save Private Dell

By Oonagh Reidy & Computer Daily News | Tuesday | 05/02/2013

NEW YORK - It's official. Dell has escaped Wall Street's beady eyes and gone private

Dell, the world's third-biggest PC maker, is going private in a deal valued at a cool US$24.4 billion, thanks to a $2bn helping hand form Microsoft, and technology investment firm Silver Lake.

The news broke early this morning Australian time.

The deal will see founder/CEO Michael Dell, who owns 16% of the company's shares, take back majority control of the company he founded as a university student almost 30 years ago.

The deal, which Dell called "a definitive merger agreement" under which Mr Dell "in partnership with technology investment firm Silver Lake, will acquire Dell."

Its statement was also very telling of the future direction of the Round Rock, Texas based company, pledging to "continue to deliver the superior solutions, services and experiences that our customers have come to expect."

(Note no mention of hardware per se, although most doubt Dell will do an IBM and give its PC business the boot anytime soon).

Michael Dell and Silver Lake will pay $13.65 a share, 35 percent more than the closing price of $10.88 on January 11, the last trading day before buyout talks became public.

Microsoft also kindly loaned Dell $2bn, giving it a significant but minority holding in the privatised company.

And lets not forget Microsoft, who is banking on huge demand for its new Windows 8 platform, will also be banking on its hardware partner Dell to produce Ultrabooks and other PCs based on the fledgling touch based OS.

The move comes at a time when Dell, once the leading PC maker before being overtaken by HP and Chinese brand Lenovo, is looking to move away from the scrutiny of Wall Street, as it proceeds with its transformation to a fully fledged IT giant, like rival IBM.

Dell, one of the major causalities of the ailing PC market failed to adapt to the popularity of smartphones and iPads, has recently snapped up a bundle of cloud, software and firms including Wyse Technology and Quest Software in a bid to move away from being just a hardware maker.

"Everything in our high-tech industry that was once driven by a PC is now driven by a smartphone,' Jim McGregor, Tirias Research analyst, told Bloomberg.

''Dell more than anything changed the business model of the PC market. But when you look at all the innovation that's gone on recently, it hasn't been on the PC."

Bloomberg notes the stock has lost more than half its value since January 2007, when Dell resumed his role as CEO.

It says that by going private after a quarter-century as a publicly traded company, Dell is seeking more leeway to cut jobs and adopt strategy shifts needed to court high-margin customers spending billions on datacentres.

Michael Dell said "this transaction will open an exciting new chapter for Dell."

"We can deliver immediate value to stockholders, while we continue the execution of our long-term strategy and focus on delivering best-in-class solutions to our customers as a private enterprise."

He said Dell has made "solid progress" executing its strategy but says "it will still take more time, investment and patience, and I believe our efforts will be better supported by partnering with Silver Lake in our shared vision."

The $24.4bn deal is subject to regulatory and stockholder approval is expected to close before the end of Dell's second quarter FY2014.

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