For sale: four-door sedan, recent model, low miles. Note: owner’s mother lives in back seat and refuses to leave. All reasonable offers accepted. Such is Dell’s dilemma as it flogs itself to private equity buyers and, indeed, to potential shareholders of any kind.
The company has built a solid and serviceable, if unexciting, information technology business selling servers, storage, services and software. But it comes along with Dell’s personal computer business, which is in a bad tailspin that could just as easily be permanent as cyclical. So the trick that investors must turn is to figure out what the IT business is worth, and therefore how much they would be paying for the PC business, and whether the latter amount makes sense for an asset that could be in decline. The problem is that Dell does not break out profitability by product line the way that, for example, Hewlett-Packard does.