Dell's $24.4 Billion Buyout: Is This What the Fed's Ben Bernanke Wanted?
Updated to reflect Moody's bond rating downgrade
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Beleaguered PC maker Dell(DELL) reached a deal to be taken private by company founder Michael Dell and investors that include software maker Microsoft(MSFT) and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners .
The takeover is noteworthy because Dell's namesake is raising his bet on a turnaround of the world's third-largest PC maker with a controlling stake in the buyout, as the company shifts into IT services, analytics and software businesses that could put it in closer competition with IBM(IBM) , Oracle(ORCL) and Cisco(CSCO) .
The $24.4 billion price for Dell also amounts to the largest leveraged buyout since the financial crisis and, in fact, stands as one of the biggest private equity deals of all time. As such, Dell's takeover may be a strong indicator of growing animal spirits on Wall Street after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Monday near 14,000 and within reach of record highs.
Still, Dell's buyout and the reported $15 billion in debt needed to pay for the company may actually hurt its transition from PCs to tech services, instead of providing a buffer from shareholders. The deal, in that sense, may raise questions about whether M&A markets and a surge in stocks augur well for economic growth.
Notably, Dell's takeover raises one crucial concern: Is this what Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke wanted?
Technically, Michael Dell's fortune, Microsoft, Silver Lake and investment banks Barclays(BCS) , Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) , Credit Suisse (CS) and RBC(RBC) are financing the $24.4 billion takeover.
But, in reality, the deal also is being financed by the Federal Reserve, by way of easing policies that put most interest rates, including those of risky debts, near record lows.
Low rates promoted by the Fed have, in effect, created record demand for any debt carrying a substantial yield -- for instance, the billions in leveraged loans that are a crucial part of Dell's proposed takeover. In 2012, the Fed's low-rate policies and asset purchases helped create a record year for junk bond sales, according to Dealogic, and yields fell to record lows, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Global High-Yield Index .
In Dell's takeover, Michael Dell is reportedly putting up about $4 billion in equity, mostly by contributing his 14% stake in the company. Meanwhile, Silver Lake will put up a reported $1 billion in equity, and Microsoft will provide a $2 billion loan.
While Dell said it will also use some cash on hand to finance the deal, it is likely to be paid for mostly with debt.