In December 2004, Lenovo burst on the international business scene with its decision to buy IBM’s then-struggling personal computer division for $1.75 billion.
Is Lenovo about to pull off another major business stunner?
The world’s No. 2 PC maker, which operates its global executive headquarters in Morrisville, is reportedly mulling a possible bid for No. 3 PC maker Dell (Nasdaq: DELL).
News reports, primarily from Bloomberg, cite sources as saying Lenovo is looking at Dell’s books. So too is No. 1 PC maker HP (NYSE: HPQ), reports say.
But whether Lenovo is serious remains unknown. Bloomberg’s sources say Lenovo and HP just might be taking an opportunity to look at Dell’s books as the company tries to go public.
Representatives for Dell and Lenovo declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg.
Lenovo recently expressed interest in troubled smartphone maker BlackBerry, and it has grown into the No. 2 PC maker with the boost of several acquisitions and partnerships worldwide.
But Dell is mulling a $24 billion-plus transaction – far beyond what Lenovo has paid in the past.
In 2005, Lenovo closed on its IBM purchase which pales in comparison to a Dell deal – $1.75 billion.
Dell’s board is seeking bids higher than the $24.4 billion offer from Michael Dell and Silver Lake Management LLC, according to people familiar with the matter.
It’s unlikely that one of the other computer makers will bid, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.
Opposition has been gaining steam among some of Dell’s biggest investors since the company said last month that it agreed to a $13.65-a-share buyout by its founder and private- equity firm Silver Lake. The deal — which requires approval from a majority of shareholders excluding Michael Dell — has been opposed by holders including Southeastern Asset Management Inc. and T. Rowe Price Group Inc.
Dell’s board committee said in a statement Wednesday that it “negotiated aggressively” to secure the best price and would extend the period for soliciting higher bids if a superior proposal emerged. Evercore Partners Inc., serving as financial adviser, is seeking other bids through March 22.
Investor Carl Icahn has amassed a stake in Dell and is pushing for a dividend recapitalization of $9 a share, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. CNBC previously reported that Icahn may have amassed a stake of as much as 6 percent.
Dell, based in Round Rock, Texas, advanced 1.8 percent to $14.32 at the close in New York. The stock has declined 16 percent in the past 12 months, compared with a 13 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
Representatives of Hewlett-Packard and Blackstone didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“There are some disgruntled shareholders and they think Michael Dell is kind of bullying them around,” Angelo Zino, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s, said in an interview. “Dell, by putting this statement out, is kind of digging their heels in the ground.”
Southeastern, Dell’s largest outside shareholder with an 8.4 percent stake, yesterday requested the names and addresses of other shareholders to discuss the deal. Southeastern has vowed to use all options at its disposal to block the buyout, including a potential proxy fight or litigation. Southeastern estimated in a regulatory filing last month that Dell is worth about $24 a share.
T. Rowe, the second-biggest outside investor in Round Rock, Texas-based Dell, has also voiced opposition.
“We believe the proposed buyout does not reflect the value of Dell and we do not intend to support the offer as put forward,” T. Rowe Price Chairman Brian Rogers said in an e- mailed statement last month.
Michael Dell and Silver Lake may need to raise the price to about $15 a share to win investor support, Abhey Lamba, an analyst at Mizuho Securities Inc., said in an interview.
“There will have to be some negotiations between the shareholders and the current buyout team,” Lamba said. “It would be hard to get a new offer from outside the current team. Whoever comes in would have to have Michael Dell on board.”