Dell postpones meeting on buyout as more votes needed

Investors are divided over prospects

Dell postponed a shareholder vote on its chief executive’s $24.4 billion buyout offer to Wednesday after failing to get enough support to seal the deal, despite winning over several large investors at the 11th hour.

The adjournment of the meeting, called minutes after shareholders gathered at Dell's headquarters in Texas to decide on what could be the largest buyout since the financial crisis, buys time for co-founder and chief executive Michael Dell to persuade naysayers to switch sides.

Complicating matters, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who has amassed an 8.7 per cent stake in Dell, is leading a charge with major shareholder Southeastern Asset Management against the buyout with an offer of his own. He and others say Michael Dell's deal undervalues the world's third-largest personal computer maker.

Investors are divided over Dell’s prospects. Some are ready to cash out of a company increasingly vulnerable to a crumbling PC market and already a shadow of an earlier self that led the global market and stood as a model of industry innovation.


Others remain convinced the company founded out of Michael Dell’s dorm room in 1984 can transform itself into a dominant provider of business computing services – under his leadership or otherwise.

In the week leading up to yesterday’s meeting, Mr Icahn’s team and Dell’s special board committee – which supports the chief executive’s offer – have flooded shareholders with letters and documents to argue their respective positions.

Vanguard and BlackRock Inc are now on board with the proposal, sources familiar with the matter said. Still, they said Michael Dell and private equity partner Silver Lake fell about 100 million shares short of the 735 million that they need for the buyout to pass.

A large chunk of non-votes – which count as “nays” – from mainly retail investors, helped account for the shortfall, several investors said. – (Reuters)