Dell Explores Strategic Alternatives, Including IPO, Deal With VMware -- Update
By Dana Cimilluca and Dana Mattioli
Dell Inc. is considering a range of strategic alternatives that could transform the maker of PCs and data-storage devices, according to people familiar with the matter.
In the review, which is in a preliminary stage, the closely held technology giant is expected to explore options including an initial public offering and a purchase of the rest of VMware Inc., a publicly traded cloud infrastructure company, the people said.
VMware has a market value north of $50 billion. Talks between the companies are at an early stage, one of the people said.
It wasn't clear what other options might be on the table. If Dell pursued a public listing, it would be one of the biggest IPOs in recent years and could provide a shot in the arm for the sluggish new-issue market. An IPO also could provide the company with cash to invest in the business and pay down debt.
That or a full takeover of VMware would be the latest in a series of big deals that have transformed Dell in the last five years -- and loaded it with debt.
The company went private in a roughly $25 billion leveraged buyout in 2013 by its founder, Michael Dell, and investment firm Silver Lake. In 2016, Dell bought data-storage company EMC for $67 billion in the largest technology takeover ever.
When the deal closed in late 2016, Dell employed about 140,000 people globally and had $74 billion in revenue. It said it would maintain operations in Hopkinton, Mass., where EMC, a pioneer in data storage, was located. It is now the world's largest privately controlled tech company.
Mr. Dell indicated at the time that the company still had an appetite for acquisitions.
But the deal making has added a significant amount of debt to Dell's balance sheet. The company currently has about $51 billion of debt, according to S&P Capital IQ.
Dell, which pays roughly $2 billion in annual interest on its debt, is among the heavily indebted companies that is expected to be hurt by the tax bill Congress passed at the end of last year. The new tax law caps companies' ability to deduct interest expense from their taxes at 30% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
Once the largest personal-computer maker, Dell is now known as much for its corporate products such as storage, servers and security software following the EMC deal. It is also joining the crowded field of companies wagering big money on the so-called Internet of Things, as the computing giant looks for new avenues of growth amid a shift in corporate spending to the cloud.
The Round Rock, Texas, company recently said it would commit $1 billion over three years to research and development to create hardware and software that would help manage billions of everyday devices connected to the web.
Silver Lake, which maintains a big stake in Dell, has a history of backing the deal making of its portfolio companies. In addition to Dell, it has done so at Broadcom Ltd., which is pursuing a $105 billion hostile takeover of Qualcomm Inc., and Symantec Corp., which has bought a string of cybersecurity companies.
VMware, based in Palo Alto, Calif. produces software related to databases, storage and the Internet of Things. When Dell bought EMC in 2016, EMC owned 80% of VMware.
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January 25, 2018 23:01 ET (04:01 GMT)Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.