According to numerous reports, Microsoft has pledged to invest in Michael Dell’s attempt to buy his company back from public shareholders. But the reports vary wildly in the details, and it’s unclear whether Microsoft has actually put billions of dollars behind the efforts or has simply entered into discussions with Mr. Dell and his financial backers.
Microsoft’s involvement in the Dell privatization efforts was first reported by CNBC.
Now struggling in a dwindling market for PCs, Dell is one of Microsoft’s oldest and biggest hardware partners, so it’s understandable that Microsoft would back such an effort. And part of the presumed deal would see Dell adopt Microsoft’s Windows software for use on the majority of the hardware it sells, which isn’t a stretch given that that’s what it already does.
Dell’s attempts to go private are complicated and expensive, but a Microsoft investment could put the deal, valued at up to $22 billion, over the top. The Wall Street Journal reports this week that a Microsoft investment could amount to “roughly $2 billion” while a New York Times story estimates that Microsoft would in fact invest “several billion dollars.” The original CNBC report pegs the amount at $1 to $3 billion. Whatever the figure, Microsoft can afford it: The firm has over $60 billion in liquid assets.
Mr. Dell currently owns 16 percent of the company and will use all of that—along with financing from private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners and several banks—to fund the takeover. Should Microsoft chip in, it would receive a stock-ownership stake in Dell but not be involved in the day-to-day running of the company.
This wouldn’t be the first time in recent days that Microsoft has bolstered a partner in trouble. It invested billions of dollars in Nokia and its partners on Windows Phone, though Microsoft doesn't have an ownership stake in that company. And Microsoft invested over $600 million last year to help Barnes & Noble spin off its Nook tablet business.