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Dell going public? Here we go again

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: Dell Technologies World 2018 conference coverage

File this under: Never try to eat anything bigger than one’s head.

Four years after Michael Dell took his namesake company private in one of the largest leveraged buyouts (LBO) in U.S. business history, rumors are abuzz that the company will consider another IPO.

Dell going public could raise cash and reduce the mountain of debt the company took on to go private. The company’s purchase of EMC and virtualization market leader VMware in 2015 made the combined $67 billion company one of the largest IT suppliers in the world. It might have also contributed to its financial woes.

Dell sold off several of its business units after the LBO, such as its software and services businesses Quest and SonicWall — but maybe that wasn’t enough to fend off financial difficulties.

Dell took on a lot of debt, and it wasn’t clear at the time how it would all be resolved, said Jean Bozman, vice president with Hurwitz & Associates, consultants based in Needham, Mass.

“It did spin out its software division and some services units, but maybe it should have considered throwing more than that overboard,” she said. “It could have helped pay down the debt.”

The money raised by Dell going public would allow the company to swallow the rest of VMware, or at least that’s one option reportedly on the table. Presently Dell only holds a stake in VMware, reportedly worth some $50 billion, and has not exerted tight control over the virtualization giant, allowing it to pursue its own independent strategies.

“VMware was allowed to partner with the entire industry from a hardware perspective, and maybe this was part of the [financial] problem too,” Bozman said.

There may be no final decision for Dell going public – again — until the board of directors meets in the next few weeks.

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