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 user 2005-08-16 at 8:14:00 am Views: 89
  • #12505

    Reality Bites…at Dell
    Funny that
    MTV’s Real World is taking place in
    Dell Inc.’s hometown of Austin, Texas this year. In fact, maybe the cast should
    make room in the hot-tub for company chairman Michael Dell and CEO Kevin

    Why? Because based on the quarterly financials announced yesterday, analysts
    are concerned that Dell is finally getting a taste of the harsh reality other PC
    makers have been dealing with. For years, Dell’s rivals have struggled to find
    new customers willing to pay them enough to make a decent profit. The problems
    started when PC prices plunged in the late 1990s. While the industry posted huge
    unit growth for a while, revenue growth didn’t keep pace–and profits all but
    evaporated for PC makers including Compaq, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and
    many others. Remember Packard-Bell?

    Only Dell avoided the problem. Thanks to its hyper-efficienct ways, it
    enjoyed net margins far higher than its rivals. That meant it could log cushy
    profits on customers that were just break-even for that hapless gang. The
    result: Dell has spent the start of the 21st century feasting on market share,
    and posting the kind of top and bottom line growth to keep it on Wall Street’s
    must-own list.

    Which brings us to yesterday’s news. Clearly, Dell is still a fabulously
    successful company. It’s earnings grew 28%, and sales–while slightly low of
    expectations–still grew a brisk 15%. But the specter of slower revenue growth
    in the future has analysts worried that even Dell is running out of easy
    pickings–that even it will have to break a sweat to find customers willing to
    pay enough for plain old PCs to keep its financial formula in good working

    As with almost everything these days, there may be a “rise of Asia” component
    to this story. Laura Conigliaro, Goldman Sachs’ excellent hardware analyst,
    points out in a report titled “A Miss With Much Wider Implications,” that rivals
    such as Acer, Lenovo and BenQ are pushing prices down farther than even Dell may
    care to match. What’s more, much of Dell’s growth is coming from Asian
    customers, who typically buy cheaper