Dell's Down, But Still Dealing

| About: Dell Inc. (DELL)
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By Brenon Daly

Undeterred by a sharp slump in business, Dell (DELL) continues to shop. Just a day after reporting an 11% decline in fiscal Q3 revenue, the tech giant on Friday reached for infrastructure automation start-up Gale Technologies. Gale should help bolster Dell’s recently launched Active System Manager (ASM) by adding an automation layer above the hypervisor, extending ASM beyond on-premises enterprise systems to support hybrid clouds.

The addition of Gale makes sense for Dell both operationally and competitively. The acquisition furthers Dell’s push toward convergence,

pretty much the only area of the company’s business that is expanding. (Through the first three quarters of this fiscal year, the servers and networking business unit has increased revenue 9%, compared with a 9% decline in total revenue at Dell.) The transaction also matches a similar purchase by Cisco of Cloupia just one day earlier.

However, beyond the Gale acquisition, there are growing questions about the broader M&A program at Dell. Although the company has been spending steadily to buy into markets beyond its historic PC business, the results have yet to show up in its top line.

Granted, the purchases are part of a multi-year transition and it may be too soon to expect full returns on them. But, with Dell shares bumping along at their lowest level since the end of the recession, Wall Street is getting impatient with the company’s turnaround. The stock has dropped 40% over the past year.

Over the past two years, Dell has spent more than $7bn on M&A, expanding into areas such as storage, security, services and software. And yet, despite that not-insignificant financial outlay, Dell is shrinking. The company is likely to put up about $57bn in sales in this fiscal year, which wraps at the end of January. That would be roughly $5bn, or 8%, less than it generated in the previous fiscal year.