September 09, 2013

Carl Icahn Stands Down in the Hunt for Dell Ownership


With only three days left before a planned vote of Dell shareholders regarding a deal posed by CEO Michael Dell's investment group, Carl Icahn has shut down his own fight for a leveraged buyout of the company. But from the look of things, the fighting may not be over just yet.

Icahn and his group put in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which read in part: “We have therefore come to the conclusion that we will not pursue additional efforts to defeat the Michael Dell/Silver Lake proposal, although we still oppose it and will move to seek appraisal rights.” This has pretty much cleared the way for a vote on the Michael Dell group's proposal, featuring a $13.75 offer per share, as well as a 13 cent dividend. Icahn, however, followed this up by saying, “We therefore congratulate Michael Dell, and I intend to call him to wish him good luck (he may need it).”

Michael Dell's plans for Dell, at last report, involve the company evolving from just a provider of personal computers and laptops to a complete full-service technology platform, offering up a variety of specific tools geared toward enterprise users of all sizes. Dell is currently the third largest computer maker in the world, with a total work force of around 14,000 workers.

It's enough to make one wonder just what's going on here. On the surface, Dell's plans for the company seem sound enough. After all, the PC market has been on something of a decline as of late, mostly owing to the fact that a lot more users are turning to tablets and smartphones for computing needs. While in many cases enterprise users still work with desktop and laptop PCs on a regular basis, even this is starting to erode a bit as the bring your own device (BYOD) doctrine starts to step in and take hold in a lot of business environments.

It's not as though there will never be a place for desktop and laptop PCs. Some desktops and laptops are doing well as home theater devices—the home theater PC is a well-known and well-loved tool in many circles—and there's certainly something to be said for that full-sized keyboard in large-scale word processing efforts. But by like token, there's also a lot of ground to lose; for every person who finds a tablet to do the job, that's one more person who likely won't buy a PC again. Dell's work in expanding outward to handle things like cloud development, big data systems and the like should be the kind of thing that's well received. So what's got Carl Icahn thinking twice about the Dell buyout? Is it just a matter of price? Or is something else afoot here?

The results of the vote this Thursday may help shed some light on the matter, and either way, it looks like Dell has a pretty big future ahead of it. It's working to reshape its product lines in the face of changing conditions on the ground, and that's the kind of thing that any shareholder should be happy to see.




Edited by Alisen Downey



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