The news came after a particularly bad year for Dell. Revenue in 2012 was down 7 percent year over year, and profits were tumbling. As Dell’s SEC filing from that year notes, Windows 8 PC sales weren’t taking off quite the way that Microsoft or its hardware partners had hoped to see from the supposedly next-generation OS, and hardware sales were flagging.
Devices like the jack-of-all-trades XPS 14 failed to appeal to any one audience, and products like the Windows RT-powered XPS 10 never came close to giving Dell the kind of success that’s enjoyed by the iPad that it was so clearly hoping to emulate. It was becoming clear that changes had to be made if Dell was going to survive.
So CEO Michael Dell presented shareholders with a £25 billion buyout that would take the company private, giving it space away from the public limelight (and pressure from investors) to rethink and reposition the struggling computer company for the future.
Fast-forward to 2018, and Dell’s prospects seem far better. Dell is now worth an estimated £70 billion — nearly triple what the buyout valued it at five years ago — and it has announced a bid to return to the public sector in a £22 billion buyout.
It’s an astounding transformation. Dell and his investment partners at Silver Lake transformed the company from a struggling consumer electronics company into an enterprise powerhouse.
But the path back to success wasn’t always clear. As seen in Dell’s SEC filings from the landmark EMC acquisition that would dramatically alter its trajectory, a few years into its time as a private firm, the company’s fortunes still hadn’t seemed to change. As reported by Business Insider at the time, annual revenues had only increased by about 2 percent, and a £2.4 billion net profit in the fiscal year ending in February 2013 turned into a £1.2 billion loss in January 2015.
Dell was still selling computers, but computers alone just weren’t enough for the company to survive.
That all changed with EMC. In October 2015, Dell announced plans to acquire the data storage company for £67 billion, the largest deal in the history of the technology sector. It gave Dell a second chance at life.
The combined revenue of the Infrastructure Solutions Group (the new Dell’s enterprise division, which combined Dell’s old Enterprise Solutions Group with EMC assets) and EMC’s stake in the cloud computing company VMWare made up a bigger slice of Dell’s revenue in the company’s most recent quarterly earnings than Dell’s Client Solutions Group (i.e., the “old” Dell for computers and peripherals).
To put it another way: revenue this year for the traditional Dell business is slightly less than it was when Dell acquired EMC. But in that same time, revenue from the Infrastructure Solutions Group branch has more than doubled.
There was a cost to Michael Dell’s gambit, though: the EMC deal may have rejuvenated Dell as an enterprise giant, but it came at the expense of adding roughly £45 billion to the company’s pile of debt, on top of the existing debt it already owed from the original 2013 buyout to go private. At the time Dell announced its return to the public markets, its debt was at £52.7 billion, even after all the money it spent over the past few years to try and pay it down. “They’ve demonstrated the value of what they had proposed in that combination of those two companies, of Dell and EMC,” says Craig Nelson, a research director at Gartner, “but there’s still a lot of debt, and a very complicated set up in how all of that has been financed.”
It’s that debt that largely explains why Dell is going public again: to be able to better manage and reduce that number by positioning itself to raise equity and find new investors.
Dell has accomplished what it wanted to get done by going private, and now, according to Nelson, “is the time to go back to the public market, have some more public equity at hand that they can use to do acquisitions and really shore up to compete as cloud takes more hold.”
Dell is also taking things slowly with its return to the public market. Michael Dell and Silver Lake’s special shares will let them keep a voting majority going forward. New investors will get a say, of course, as well as their fair share of any profits. But the arrangements will leave Michael Dell with more control than most traditional public companies.
While Dell may be interested in the opportunity to continue the company’s growth outside of the private sphere, Michael Dell seems just fine with his hand staying firmly on the rudder for the foreseeable future.
That tight grip has benefited the company (and Michael) over the past five years. By the Financial Times’ estimate, Michael Dell’s original £4 billion investment has multiplied into one worth £32 billion. A newly public Dell would leave Michael Dell in the best position yet: at the head of his company, with all the gains from the growth while private but far fewer of the risks that come without public support.
There are still plenty of questions for the future, though.
Michael Dell may be holding on to control of the company, but PC sales have largely been either flat or declining across the industry for the last five years (even if Dell’s sales haven’t swung much in either direction). And while Dell’s newfound enterprise hardware and data center business may have turned things around for the once-struggling company, it’s not a trend that can last forever: the industry is already heading toward a world where more companies are skipping out on building their own data centers in favor of cloud-computing based solutions from competitors like Amazon, Microsoft, and Salesforce.
As Nelson further points out, Dell also essentially has to reenter the market now. “There’s a lot of pressure on Dell and companies that compete with Dell to sell data center gear: servers, storage, networking. There’s going to be a lot of consolidation in that space because there’s absolutely no doubt that there’s been a huge move to public cloud, specifically AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google.
So I think in a year or two, it’s going to be too difficult to make the same case that they’re making today.”
It remains to be seen whether Dell has learned any of the lessons from this cycle: will the company figure out a way to continue to grow with the changing market, expand into new fields, and anticipate new trends? Or will we watch in another decade as the company retreats from the public sphere again to lick its wounds and see if it can figure out the next way to stave off defeat? “They could if they don’t use this opportunity to align themselves better with servicing cloud,” says Nelson. “They have some concepts around the Internet of Things and playing at the edge, but they’re going to need to get better at partnering with public cloud providers to do that, instead of trying to stand alone.”
For now, at least, Dell is back. The pressure is on.
The future is uncertain.
But based on the last few years, it’s safe to say that no one should count out Dell just yet — not as long as Michael Dell is in charge.
The sales figures for laptops would have you believe there’s only really two operating systems available: laptops running Windows 10 and Apple’s MacBook range running macOS. But there’s a third option in the form of Linux, and one of the most well-known computer companies ships a premium laptop running a version of it. That company is Dell, and the XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop just got updated and certified to ship with the latest (extended support and stability) version of Ubuntu.
Before now, the XPS 13 Developer Edition shipped with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, but Dell worked with Canonical to certify Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) on the XPS 13, meaning there will be no driver problems from first boot, it will just work, which is great news for anyone using this laptop as an excuse to try Linux. The LTS following the Ubuntu version number stands for “Long Term Support.” It means that Canonical support this version of their operating system for five years and it typically prioritizes stability over the more frequently updated intermediate Ubuntu versions that appear on a six month release cycle. Although this version of the XPS 13 is aimed squarely at developers and enterprise buyers, it should be no less appealing to consumers who want to try something different, don’t want to pay the high price of a MacBook Pro, or who are tired of dealing with Windows 10 and its constant updates.
Availability across Europe is expected in early August.
The GEM Netbook Case is specifically designed for netbooks with a screen size of up to 10.2″. The high quality padding is enhanced with reinforced padding to the top and sides of the case. The sleekly designed case is made from high quality tough fabric and will help protect your netbook against those scrapes and drops that inevitably happen. It is the perfect case for today’s netbook. The case has a carry handle in addition to a non-slip shoulder strap. The case also has an additional zipped front pocket for accessories such as mobile phones, iPods, cables, etc. In summary the GEM Netbook Case is sure to please through its thoughtful design and excellent quality. All brand names and product names are trademarks or trade names of their respective holders. The brands and trademarks owned by the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are referred to only for the purpose of pointing out which of the OEM products are compatible with ours. GEM is not in any way associated with any OEM.