Gad: Farmer in the Dell
Dell's PC business is declining, and that trend is likely to continue. For that reason, the company continues to focus on and invest in its enterprise software solutions business. Dell is positioning itself to rely more on its higher-margin service business vs. its traditional PC hardware business.
What Dell is attempting to do is not unlike what IBM (IBM) has done over the past decade. IBM sold its computer business to China's Lenovo and began focusing on its software solutions. Over that time period, IBM has transformed itself from a stale computer company to one of the most dominant players in the world -- so good, in fact, that it convinced Warren Buffett to buy $10 billion worth of shares.
Uncertainty is the cloud that hangs over Dell's share price. Due to weakening PC sales as people shift to tablets and more Mac products, no one is quite sure what to make of earnings. PC sales presently account for about one-third of the company's profits; the other 65% comes from the higher-margin software solutions business, which promises Dell the best opportunity for continued growth. As a result, Dell's earnings visibility is opaque, and we have a $12 stock with nearly $3 per share in net cash. Furthermore, the company is generating over $2 per share a year in free cash flow. When you strip out the net cash, Dell is trading for approximately 5x free cash flow.
That's an extremely low valuation, especially for a high-quality, cash-rich large-cap stock. It's no surprise then that since Michael Dell returned as CEO five years ago, he has slowly acquired over $500 million worth of Dell shares. His personal buybacks coincide with the company's own buyback of over one-third of a stake during the past decade. Furthermore, the company finally joined the ranks of Microsoft (MSFT) , Intel (INTC) and other tech behemoths by recently announcing an annual dividend for a 2.5% yield.