Lenovo’s ambitious goal of becoming the world’s No. 1 PC maker and also leading in Internet-connected devices could receive a huge boost if the company were to acquire No. 3 Dell.
But HP, still the top computer maker, could defend its spot with a deal of its own.
However, the prospect that either or both firms might make a bid for Dell appears to have cooled.
Any such deal would be expensive – as much as $25 billion as minority shareholders pressure the company to seek a better offer than the current $24.4 billion being offered by company founder and Chairman Michael Dell.
Sources are telling Bloomberg that Lenovo and HP (NYSE: HPQ) are unlikely to make a bid.
Last week, reports speculated that the two rivals might be using Dell’s buyout talk to just get a look at the company’s (Nasdaq: DELL) financials.
Lenovo, which maintains its global executive headquarters in Morrisville, and HP declined comment on the story.
Higher Stock Offer?
To fend off other buyers and to satisfy shareholders, Michael Dell could boost the offer to $15 a share and still pay the cheapest multiple among large technology buyouts, according to Bloomberg. Dell and his partner Silver Lake Management have offered $13.65 per share.
The interest in Dell’s books along with Carl Icahn amassing a stake and pushing for a special dividend are adding to the opposition from Dell’s two largest outside shareholders.
Dell shares traded above the current bid by as much as 6.3 percent last week, signaling investors are betting the price tag will ultimately exceed the current $24.4 billion offer. At least five analysts see the buyout group increasing the bid to as much as $14.90 to $15 a share.
At $15, Dell still would be going private at about 5.4 times profit, the lowest multiple for a technology buyout larger than $1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“If they want it enough, it’d probably be a good idea to sweeten the offer,” Shaw Wu, a San Francisco-based analyst with Sterne Agee Group Inc., said in a telephone interview. “But there’s only so much debt this company can take before it turns out to be an ugly deal. That’s what limits what investors can expect and what the buyers can offer.”
A representative from Silver Lake declined to comment on whether it plans to raise the offer price. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell and the company both declined to comment, according to spokesman David Frink.
The so-called go-shop period runs through March 22, and Dell said this week that it welcomes Icahn and other parties to participate in that process.
While a higher bid is possible, it’s “far from certain,” said Bill Kreher, a St. Louis-based analyst with Edward Jones & Co. who recommends investors hold onto their shares but not add to their positions.
“The currently agreed upon price reflects the difficulties PC makers are facing,” he said in a phone interview. “While I applaud any initiative that allows for a higher offer, I think that Silver Lake spent a great deal of time on this and truly believes Dell’s intrinsic value is below $14.”
The two largest minority owners, Southeastern Asset Management Inc. and T. Rowe Price Group Inc., oppose the current terms and have said $13.65 a share undervalues Dell. If the deal were to fall apart, Jim Chanos, founder and president of Kynikos Associates LP, estimated in a report last month that Dell’s stock could fall to $10 a share or lower. Chanos told CNBC yesterday that he’s been short Dell shares.
According to Louis Meyer, a special situations analyst with Oscar Gruss & Son Inc., the offer may need to be revised to $14.65 to $14.90 a share and an additional $1.75 billion to $2.2 billion of debt “should be manageable.”
Analysts from Jefferies Group LLC, Mizuho Financial Group Inc., Sterne Agee and GFI Group Inc. said a deal may get done at $15 a share, a 9.9 percent increase from the already agreed upon price.
Lifting the offer to “$15 would be the maximum bump that the current consortium would be comfortable paying,” Alfredo Scialabba, a New York-based special situations analyst at GFI, said in a phone interview.
Microsoft Corp., which is providing a $2 billion loan for the buyout, has enough cash to increase its contribution, Sterne Agee’s Wu said. The world’s largest software maker had more than $68 billion of cash and equivalents as of December.
“That’s something to watch for, whether Microsoft is willing to commit more,” Wu said.
Peter Wootton, a spokesman for Microsoft, declined to comment.
[LENOVO ARCHIVE: Check out eight years of Lenovo stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]