independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

PUNT: Private equity buyout of computing giant could spell exit for Dell

IT looks like the reality of hard-nosed business is about to hit Michael Dell squarely in the face.

The founder and chief executive of the eponymous computing giant could soon find himself surplus to requirements.

It has been confirmed that private equity group Blackstone and billionaire investor Carl Icahn are fully prepared to take over Mr Dell's company – with or without retaining the Texan.

This is not the first time a leveraged buyout has slipped out of the control of its principal instigator. The Punt has previously referenced the infamous takeover of RJR Nabisco in 1988 when writing about Dell and this comparison is looking ever more appropriate.

When Mr Dell launched his LBO, intellectually he must have known that other bidders could emerge. The Dell board, after all, was legally mandated to seek alternative offers to the one he put on the table. Mr Dell's bid of $13.65 a share is now the lowest of the three submitted. If he wants a shot at retaining his company, he and his partners probably need to up their offer.

So what kind of company would Dell be without Dell? The last time he stepped back, it flatlined and he had to return on a white horse to resurrect it.

That doesn't mean that he is the only person who can run the business. If Mr Icahn or Blackstone do win out, there will be no shortage of candidates for the top job.

The bottom line is that with or without Michael Dell, his company will continue. Business is littered with entrepreneurs who lost control of their companies – Mr Dell may well be added to that list.

The Swiss make clocks – perhaps they could give Enda Kenny one

We have no doubt that the Taoiseach is a busy man – juggling as he does the great affairs of State, the European presidency and the odd by-election.

However, it would be rather nice if he showed up on time for a press event every now and then.

On Tuesday, he was to announce 112 new jobs at Zurich Insurance. The announcement was scheduled for 1pm at a swish hotel right across the road from Government Buildings. By 1.30, there was still no sign of Enda Kenny.

Delays can happen to any of us, of course, but it was by no means an isolated incident and it would have been nice of Mr Kenny to at least have made some kind of reference to his lack of punctuality.

Mr Kenny certainly doesn't need to apologise – but how hard can it be to mutter an aul' "sorry to keep you all waiting"?

Now, it may be that the Taoiseach just doesn't have that much regard for the press, as is his right.

He is notoriously unwilling to do 'doorstep' interviews – the informal press conferences that are common in business and politics. But it's not just hacked-off hacks that end up waiting around for these slow-shows by Mr Kenny. On Tuesday, executives from Zurich Insurance were also left hanging around until the state Merc finally pulled up outside.

The Punt wonders what the notoriously punctual Swiss firm made of it all.

Minister wants a catchy name for pensioner dosh scheme

COMING up with a name is one of the big issues exercising the minds of Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and her advisers.

They're looking for a name for a new auto-enrolment pension scheme for the one million workers who do not have a retirement plan, other than the social welfare one.

Similar schemes around the world tend to have snappy tags. In New Zealand, they have KiwiSave. The Australians call theirs Super, in reference to the fact that the compulsory scheme is formally called a superannuation fund. The new scheme in the UK is Nest.

So a catchy name is needed here to ensure that the new scheme is a success.

Many ministers have looked at this issue, but Ms Burton is anxious to ensure we actually get a new universal pension scheme which will ensure workers in the private sector have adequate pension cover in the future. Some 67pc of these workers have no pension arrangements in place, while in the public sector coverage is pretty much comprehensive.

Ms Burton indicated that the proposed initiative would be particularly beneficial for people on low and middle incomes, or those moving in and out of jobs, who have had little opportunity to save for a traditional type pension with their employer.

The Punt suggests that a good name for the new scheme could be Dosh. It is slang, clearly indicates money in a non-threatening way and may just catch on.

Irish Independent

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