Rumors of a dying Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) were greatly exaggerated.
The computer wrangler just shocked the Street with stronger second-quarter results than expected -- and an early release of the information. Earnings fell 23% to $0.24 and sales swooned 22%, or $12.8 billion, as compared to the year-ago quarter. But revenue, unit shipments, and earnings all improved from the previous quarter, and Dell saw $1.1 billion of operating cash flow.
Third-party reports that Dell's consumer division wasn't moving units turned out to be mistaken, that segment saw 17% higher unit volumes than last year and only 9% lower dollar sales, which beats market leader Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ ) performance. In fact, consumer systems turned out to be Dell's strongest division this time.
Corporate accounts, large and small, still seem to be holding back on their IT infrastructure buys. If they're just waiting for Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) to release Windows 7, that pent-up demand should turn into torrential sales once each company puts the new platform through its testing procedures. But fiscal issues also play into that equation, of course. I don't expect Citigroup to build out its data centers anytime soon, for example, and small businesses that use a lot of Dell's systems have been pushed to the brink of extinction by this recession.
So the road to recovery for corporate accounts could very well be much longer than for the consumer business -- with or without Microsoft's help. Government sales are holding up much better than the business-to-business sales. That's how Dell sees the markets playing out this fall, and I concur.
Dell's stock jumped about 14% between 3:30 yesterday and today’s opening, including a 7% pop in the minutes between Dell sharing the information prematurely and yesterday's market close. However, the stock has since settled at around $16 a share, still a tidy gain. All told, Dell has just about doubled since bottoming out in March, keeping pace even with bitter rival and habitual growth champion Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) .
Dell will certainly survive, and is still an amazing cash machine -- but are these results enough to make you want to buy the stock today? Some winners just keep winning, you know. Share your thoughts in the comments box below.