Commentaries

Now raising intellectual capital

Dell shows discipline in opting for Perot

Photo

– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
  
By Eric Auchard

Eric AuchardLONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Dell Inc has made a solid move into computer services by buying Perot Systems, even if the hefty price Dell is paying is hard to justify on Perot’s standalone prospects alone. 

And the price looks very rich indeed.  Dell is spending nearly $4 billion in cash — a premium of 68 percent to Perot stock’s recent close — to buy a slow-growing U.S. computer services firm focused on health care and government clients.
  
That’s 1.4 times Perot’s expected 2010 sales, or roughly two times more than rival Hewlett-Packard paid when it acquired EDS in a $13.2 billion deal last year.

But the Perot deal is best understood as arming Dell with a sales force to push its broad computer hardware lines and expanding software and services offerings out to healthcare and government customers. The acquisition lets Dell neatly expand into these markets without indulging in mega-dealmaking of the sort it has no history doing. And Dell will still be left with $9 billion in cash for any additional deals.

Don’t bank too soon on Dell PC refresh

Photo

   By Eric Auchard
Dell computers on sale in Beijing computer market   LONDON, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Dell Inc’s quarterly earnings report beat investor expectations that have been repeatedly hammered down. But the computer maker’s celebrations could be short-lived.
   Results for the second-quarter ending in July were buoyed by transient business factors as it continued to lose share in its core PC business. Meanwhile, technology budgets are still being slashed and the company’s business, which depends heavily on personal computers, is unlikely to be an early beneficiary of any corporate spending rebound that could begin in 2010.
   Government computer spending saved the quarter for Dell as public spending surpassed sales to its mainstay large commercial customers for the first time. However, this was largely due to seasonal education demand from state and local governments. Sales to corporate customers and small and medium-sized businesses remained weak, falling 32 percent and 29 percent respectively.
   It is a measure of Dell’s battered condition that a fall in government sales of just 16 percent and consumer sales of 9 percent were seen as positive factors. The Texas company was alone among the top five PC makers to lose market share in the second quarter compared to the same period a year earlier, market research firm Gartner Inc says.
   For the current third-quarter, government spending will have to offset expected weaker corporate spending, especially in the United States and Europe.
   Hopes for Dell’s stock rest on the potential for the next generation of Microsoft operating system software — Windows 7, due out in October — to spur on a wave of computer upgrades next year. The average corporate PC is now 4.5 years old. As PCs represent a far larger chunk of Dell’s sales than for other computer manufacturers, it stands to be the biggest beneficiary of any spurt in new sales.
   But there are doubts whether Windows software has the same pulling power that it did a decade ago in terms of sparking hardware upgrade cycles as corporate buyers control spending more tightly these days.
   Another problem is that corporations and governments will need to put additional computer servers, storage and software in place before any major PC upgrade cycle gets underway.
   CEO Michael Dell is convinced that “a big refresh cycle” is underway over the course of the next year. The question is when: It could be 2011 before any broad PC upgrade begins to flow through into company results.
   Despite all these questions, Dell’s shares are up more than 10 percent after the report. The stock trades at a 15.5 multiple to Wall Street’s 2010 earnings forecasts, in line with the computer hardware sector, but roughly 40 percent higher than multiples of healthier, more diversified rivals Hewlett-Packard <HPQ.N> and IBM <IBM.N>. A big comeback in the company’s fortunes looks priced into the stock.
   Yet Dell still needs a major transformation of its business model to attract more software and services revenue (See July 22 column “A brutal logic to Dell’s reinvention”).
   It must show progress in winning back consumers, while cutting its overall PC exposure before anyone can call Dell a turnaround.
   
   — At the time of publication Eric Auchard did not own any direct investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund. You can find some of Eric’s recent columns here. –

(Photo: Reuters/David Gray)

Bon chance getting this deal done, Alcatel-Lucent

Photo

It beggars belief that humbled telecom equipment supplier Alcatel-Lucent could be scooped up by a Chinese rival with nothing better to do. Huawei or ZTE seem credible candidates. The question is, why would they ever bother?

PLA soldiers perform during a rehearsal of a musical drama in Beijing

That didn’t stop shares of Alcatel-Lucent from rocketing up as much as 21 percent on Wednesday on rumors of an unnamed suitor. Momentum was helped by a rating upgrade on the depressed stock by French broker Natixis. The shares later settled back somewhat to trade at 2.75 euros, up 12 percent on the day in Paris.

Tech results give few clues to economy: Eric Auchard

Photo

Windows 7 touchscreen demonstrationBy Eric Auchard

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) – Investors have proved all too ready to interpret positive earnings trends from Intel, IBM and Apple as signs of economic recovery and to justify a continued rally in technology stocks.

Now they are taking the wrong lessons in reverse by reading disappointing results from Microsoft Corp as evidence that a nascent rebound in the economy has stalled.

A brutal logic to Dell’s reinvention: Eric Auchard

Photo

– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

By Eric Auchard

Michael Dell in New DelhiLONDON, July 22 (Reuters) – Dell Inc needs to reinvent itself to cope with falling margins for key products and a spate of mergers which are rapidly reshaping the competitive scene.

The hollow ring of tech earnings reports: Eric Auchard

Photo

By Eric Auchard

Morgan Stanley Hi-Tech Index year-to-dateLONDON, July 17 (Reuters) – For technology investors looking for clues to how the sector is faring, Intel Corp sent a false positive signal with its upbeat quarterly report this week. Subsequent reports from IBM, Nokia and Google show how hollow any recovery for growth stocks is proving to be. Even though the growth sector has defied the broader market sell-off in recent weeks, all the signs point to weak trading in months ahead.

Nokia, the world’s largest mobile phone maker, offered a harrowing reminder of what life is like for companies exposed to the wider vicissitudes of consumer demand. It is struggling in a handset market set to decline around 10 percent this year, even though Nokia signalled the industry may be stabilising.   

Don’t read too much into Intel’s success: Eric Auchard

Photo

By Eric Auchard

Intel CEO Paul OtelliniLONDON (Reuters) – Intel Corp has cheered up investors by once again making forecasts about its financial performance. The trouble with reading too much into its rebound, however, is that this is largely due to productivity gains of its own making, rather than a broader awakening of demand.

To be sure, Intel’s revenue, profit and margins surged past all published analyst expectations for the second quarter. Partly, this was merely the “snapback” that occurred after Intel throttled back production to as low as 25 percent of factory capacity in the first quarter, amid a glut of unsold chips and shriveling demand.

  •