DELL has posted its seventh consecutive quarterly fall in profits as the struggle for control over the world’s third-largest maker of PCs enters a new phase.
Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn has asked a Delaware court to fast-track his lawsuit against Dell, upping the ante in his months-long attempt to derail a takeover offer for the company by its founder and chief executive. Michael Dell and private equity partner Silver Lake are offering $24.8 billion (£15.9bn) to take the company private.
Icahn is pressing the company to hold a special vote on Dell’s offer which is currently scheduled for 12 September at the same time as an annual meeting planned for 17 October. The move would effectively buy Icahn additional time to rally support for his rival proposals.
Icahn and his supporters – who argue that Dell’s offer undervalues the business – believe the company should focus on its enterprise business, which sells servers, storage and network products.
Dell, pictured right, plans an overhaul of the company out of the public spotlight, with the aim of becoming a complete provider of computing services.
About the only thing the two sides agree on is the need for change, a point underscored by the 72 per cent plunge in Dell’s second quarter profits.
Once the world’s largest PC manufacturer, Dell and its rivals have been fighting an uphill battle as computer users migrate away from PCs to mobile devices.
The trend has severely damaged Dell’s revenues, half of which are still generated from PCs. Latest figures from research specialists Gartner show world-wide PC shipments fell to 76 million units in the second quarter of this year, a decline of nearly 11 per cent on the same period last year.
It marked the fifth consecutive quarter of declining shipments, leading to what Gartner described as “the longest duration of decline in the PC market’s history”.
Dell’s profits tumbled to $204m in the second quarter, down from $732m in the same period a year earlier. Sales were flat at $14.5bn.
Sales in Dell’s PC business fell by 5 per cent, less severe than the broader market decline. However, margins were strained to the extent that operating income for the PC division collapsed by 71 per cent.
The software business posted an operating loss of $147m on sales of $310m, while enterprise solutions saw a 9 per cent slump in operating income despite an increase in revenues.
Services was the only division to report progress on all fronts, with revenues up 2 per cent to $2.1bn. Operating income rose by 1 per cent to $339m.