If you believe that Michael Dell’s proposed management-led buyout of Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) aims to undervalue the PC and IT player and is a move to take the company private on the cheap, then you better think about today’s earnings. This may be the final or next to last public earnings announcement issued by Dell. While we have no clue how the earnings really did in the most recent quarter, this is a real case where a classic conflict of interest stands out like a sore thumb.
If Michael Dell really wants to stick to a low price, it is in his best financial interest to have Dell report bad earnings. Maybe a couple key corporate or enterprise orders got pushed out. Maybe some expenses got moved forward. There are too many ways that a company can drive earnings (and revenues) in a quarter. It is important to recall that if Dell’s earnings are too strong then you could expect more than just the top two independent institutional shareholders publicly filing with the SEC that the $13.65 per share greatly undervalues the company.
All conspiracy theories aside, Dell is scheduled to report earnings after the close on Tuesday. Dell is expected to post $0.39 per share in earnings (down from $0.51 a year ago) on sales down almost 12% to $14.12 billion. Thomson Reuters shows that Dell had big upside two quarters ago against the estimates, but three of the past four quarterly earnings per share reports have been shy of expectations.
Note that Dell’s share price of $13.79 in late morning trading is above the $13.65 share price. Options traders are only expecting a move of up to about 2% in either direction, but we would caution with Dell trading above the formal buyout price that investors should disregard the options indicator today. Chart analysis is also useless on its own today. Dell shares are trading at $13.79, and the 52-week range is $8.69 to $18.36.
Again, there is no way to know what sort of earnings report will come out today. We just cannot overlook how the conflict of interest stands out as an obvious issue going into this report. Remember, there is $24 billion or so at stake in this deal.