Michael Dell, Silver Lake get shareholders’ nod for $25bn buyout

Michael Dell clinched shareholder approval yesterday for his $25bn offer to buy and take Dell Incorporation private, ending months of conflict with the company’s largest investors and removing the uncertainty surrounding the world’s No. 3 PC maker.

Shareholders cast their votes at a special meeting yesterday morning in Austin, Texas. Based on preliminary results, the buyout won their go-ahead and the deal is expected to close before the end of Dell’s fiscal third quarter.

The company’s pace of internal transformation should now quicken. Sealing the deal should also assuage customers who have grown wary of the company’s direction during a public battle that pit major Wall Street players Icahn, Southeastern Asset Management and T. Rowe Price against the Chief Executive Officer.

“Once the deal is consummated, they can move on and close some of the large infrastructure deals they’ve been working on. I do think there’s been a bit of a pause,” said Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross. Dell, who founded the company from a college dorm-room in 1984, and partner Silver Lake fought for months to convince sceptical investors his offer was the best option.

This week, he gained the upper hand after one of his staunchest opponents, activist investor Carl Icahn, bowed out of the conflict because he said it was impossible to win.

Dell reported a 72 per cent slide in quarterly earnings last month, reflecting price cuts intended to soothe nervous customers and spearhead a foray into the enterprise market. Michael Dell has argued that revamping his company into a provider of enterprise computing services in the mold of IBM is a complex undertaking best performed outside the spotlight of public markets.

It remains to be seen if Dell can build its storage, networking and software portfolios to vie with Hewlett Packard Co and others. Some analysts think it may be too late, since a large swathe of the corporate market has been locked up by IBM and HP.

But with the PC market expected to shrink again in 2013, investors say the company has little choice. Asoka Kodali, a stockholder from Austin who owns 3,000 shares, said he voted for the Michael Dell-Silver Lake buyout even though he would lose money.

“I don’t like the offer but I voted for it this time as I don’t see a future for Dell as a public company,” he said before the voting began.

“Instead of having my money blocked there, I would rather take the loss and use it offset other (stock) gains.” Dell Inc in recent years has become one of the more prominent victims of PC market erosion from mobile devices like Apple Inc’s iPad.

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