Tuesday 20 February 2018

PUNT: Icahn halts Dell's buyout plan

IF Michael Dell thought he was going to quickly wrap up the planned leveraged buyout of his eponymous computer company, then it appears he was sorely mistaken.

The news that serial investor Carl Icahn, pictured, has accumulated a 3pc stake in the company is proof, if it were ever needed, that the battle for Dell will be a long, drawn-out affair.

The Dell board is said to be actively soliciting alternative offers to Mr Dell's bid, which values the company at about $24bn (€18bn).

The sad thing is that it didn't have to be this way. History is littered with tales of executives who have tried to take control of their company, only to be trumped by another bidder and lose control of the company completely.

Most famously, there was the epic fight for US conglomerate RJR Nabisco in the late 1980s.

Then chief executive Ross Johnson launched a leveraged buyout for the company, but his bid was deemed too low. After a long, drawn-out battle, the private equity house Kohlberg Kravis Roberts took over the firm and Mr Johnson was out of a job. Mr Dell seems to have made a similar error.

As soon as the Johnson team's bid was public, various investors complained it undervalued the company.

That happened almost immediately with Dell as well. Now that a corporate raider of Mr Icahn's standing is involved, it's no longer a case of when Mr Dell takes over, but rather a question of "if".

New appointment for Keelan

ON International Women's Day, it gives The Punt no little pleasure to celebrate Helen Keelan's appointment as non-executive director of the PM Group.

The UCD and Trinity-educated accountant joined the engineering group after a 25-year career, which has included stints at KPMG, Ericsson and Intel.

She also sits on the audit committee of CIE as well as being a non-executive director of Barclays Bank Ireland, New York Life Investments International and Oasis Global Investment Fund Ireland.

Like many new directors, Ms Keelan has a qualification from the Institute of Directors, which seems increasingly to be the best way to land a plum job on a company board.

Not that she plans to do nothing. The 35-year-old PM Group is expanding rapidly away from the construction black hole that stretches from Ireland to every corner of the planet.

It is Ms Keelan's expertise working for multinationals that encouraged PM chairman Dan Flinter to ask her aboard.

The group had a rough year in 2012 when falling property values and restructuring costs knocked sales back 16pc, but sales still topped €175m while operating profits remained stable at €6.9m.

While a fall in sales is never nice, a performance like this still represents a pretty good performance for a private company in this climate.

No wonder the company can afford to hire Ms Keelan's services.

That's one way to avoid tax

YOU might think we're the only ones coming to terms with the stressful introduction of a property tax. Not so.

In China, the government has been attempting to rein in property prices and has announced plans to impose a 20pc tax on the sale of any second home. What's the response been? Divorce.

Chinese tend to park much of their wealth in real estate as they have few other alternative investment options, and home prices in the biggest cities have risen for nine straight months. Officials divorced a record 53 couples in a single day this week in one office in Shanghai – about one every five minutes – as people rush to avoid having to pay the hefty levy by taking a property each.

It is believed that, while divorced, they can sell one of the properties, avoid the tax and then remarry.

At least there haven't been any outlandish attempts to avoid the impending home tax here – at least not yet.

Irish Independent

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