Dell Considers Delaying Buyout Vote

The company is said to be seeking a higher bid or more time to win shareholder support for the deal.

Dell Inc.’s special committee of the board is considering delaying the July 18 shareholder vote on the buyout by founder Michael Dell, seeking a higher bid or time to win support for the $24.4 billion deal, said a person with direct knowledge of the situation.

The committee is exploring a postponement of about a week, said the person, who asked not to be named because the process is private. The group is likely to make a decision by the morning of July 18 if the votes already cast against the buyout are enough to scuttle it, the person said. The June 3 record date, by which one had to invest to be entitled to vote, won’t change, said the person.

Adjourning the vote would give buyers Dell and Silver Lake Management LLC time to boost the bid or declare the current offer of $13.65 a share as best and final, said the person. It would also give shareholders, who can recast their votes up until the last minute, a chance to change their minds, according to the person.

“If they’ve talked to enough shareholders and they’re not confident that the deal would pass, they could potentially sweeten the deal from $13.65, but they would need time to make that decision,” said Jeff Fidacaro, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. in New York.

The move also would prolong Dell’s struggle for control against billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who has pushed for months for the founder to raise his bid. BlackRock Inc., which has a 4.4 percent stake in the third-largest personal-computer maker, voted against the buyout, according to the person.

T. Rowe Price Group Inc., which holds 4.1 percent, reiterated its opposition yesterday, saying the buyout doesn’t “reflect the value of Dell.” To succeed, the buyout needs to win approval from a majority of holders excluding Michael Dell, who has about a 16 percent stake.

David Frink, a spokesman for Round Rock, Texas-based Dell, declined to comment. A representative for BlackRock didn’t reply to a request for comment. Dell shares fell 1.2 percent to $13 at 12:12 p.m. in New York.

Icahn, now Dell’s top outside holder with an 8.7 percent stake, has made at least four attempts to derail the buyout. In his latest effort last week, he pledged to sweeten his offer to acquire about 1.1 billion Dell shares at $14 each by adding warrants that investors could exchange for additional shares. The latest proposal’s value to shareholders would be about $15.50 to $18 a share, Icahn said last week.

 

Appraisal Rights

 

Icahn previously said he was preparing to exercise appraisal rights in court, and urged fellow shareholders to do the same. Dell holders who don’t vote in favor of the deal would be eligible to exercise those rights under the General Corporation Law of Delaware. They would be entitled to receive a cash payment equaling the “judicially determined” fair value of their Dell shares, a process that could leave them with more or less than the $13.65 offer price.

Michael Dell is attempting to take his company private, almost three decades after he founded it, to help transform the PC maker into a contender in tablets and cloud computing. His proposal won key endorsements last week from Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and other influential proxy advisory firms, and it also has the backing of the special committee of Dell’s board that’s evaluating potential transactions on the company’s behalf.

Dell may need years to effect a turnaround if the Michael Dell-Silver Lake and Icahn deals don’t come to fruition, and the stock could fall to below $9, said Jayson Noland, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. in San Francisco.

“There’s substantial downside if these deals were to go away,” Noland said. “The stock could go to 8-something or even lower. The PC market is bad and Dell is heavily exposed -- same story.”

 

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