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Dell’s Strategy Amid Tough Market

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Dell Inc (DELL.O) is still cautious about corporate technology spending, but plans to make acquisitions and aggressively pursue enterprise customers in an effort to win back market share in the United States.

Steve Schuckenbrock, president of the No. 2 PC maker’s large enterprise business, said on Thursday that corporations in general were either cautiously investing or stuck in “hunker-down mode.” He estimated the split at around 50/50.

Speaking at the Reuters Global Technology Summit in New York, he said Dell would focus on acquiring new customers in the United States, where its personal computer market share is estimated by market research firm IDC to have fallen to about 26 percent in the first quarter.

“I think we scaled back our attention to that over the last couple of years, particularly in the U.S… we lost share in large customers and we’re not going to do that again,” Schuckenbrock said.

Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) overtook Dell as the PC market share leader in the U.S. in the first quarter, according to IDC, boosted by strong demand for consumer notebooks. HP is also the world’s largest PC maker, with Dell ranking second.

Dell, which has been working through wrenching cost cuts and headcount reductions, is scheduled to report quarterly earnings next Thursday.

“We’re a growth company, (there’s) no question we have our eye on the (market) share situation,” Schuckenbrock said. “We also have a pretty good eye on margin.”

“We have seen some share loss particularly on lower price bands and I think you can expect us to address that,” he said.

PCs comprise around 60 percent of Dell’s revenue, leaving it more exposed than more-diversified HP to the global slowdown in PC sales brought on by economic weakness.

“We remain cautious about how that spend will come back,” Schuckenbrock said, speaking generally about information technology spending. “If I had to guess today, you’ve got a 50/50 mix of those that are cautiously investing and those that are still in hunker-down mode.”

When asked if his customers’ budget constraints have eased in May compared to April, he answered, “I can’t say I’ve seen that.”


Dell Chief Executive Michael Dell has said the company, with around $9 billion in cash and short-term investments, plans to be acquisitive as it looks to diversify its sales base.

Oracle Corp’s (ORCL.O) recent move to acquire Sun Microsystems Inc (JAVA.O) changed the competitive landscape in enterprise IT, and many analysts expect further deals in the sector this year, given that valuations are so low.

Although Schuckenbrock declined to comment on potential targets or specific business areas the company may be shopping in, he said Dell is interested in software and services.

“We’re certainly buyers now and you should expect to see us in that mode,” Schuckenbrock said, adding that there were attractive targets for all industry players.

Asked if low valuations meant Dell should pounce now rather than wait, he indicated that competition was a bigger motivator.

“I don’t know that it’s ‘do it now’ because of inflation of price. I don’t think we’re as concerned about that as we are that there’s a lot of consolidation in the industry,” he said.

Dell’s stock is trading at around 10 times forward earnings, according to Reuters Estimates. The shares are up around 10 percent this year, but are off more than 40 percent from a year ago.

Earlier this week, Sanford Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi made positive comments about the company.

“I think Dell probably has the biggest upside of any company that I cover because it’s depressed and very inexpensive. If they can effect a turnaround and the economy goes their way they probably have as much upside or more than anyone I cover.”

Copyright 2009 Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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