Well, it certainly is an interesting time to be the Dell
The company's performance has been limping along, and the stock continues to languish after dropping 40%-plus since mid-2005. There are questions over whether Dell had some shady dealings going on with Intel
First things first
And, oh yeah, just so we're not standing around with a massive elephant in the room, let's go ahead and talk about Dell's admission that its ongoing accounting investigation has not only found some accounting errors, but it also uncovered some "evidence of misconduct." Uh-oh.
To some extent, I have to agree with fellow Fool Tim Beyers that Dell doesn't have the latitude right now to keep leaking out bits and pieces of what's going on with the accounting.
On the other hand, while the findings may seem fairly damning, they don't give all that many clues as to how bad the situation really is. It'd be like reading tea leaves (or a Federal Reserve statement) to try to predict what this will actually mean in terms of the investigation's outcome.
A worst-case accounting scenario could still do significant damage, but there is a lot of downside that's already been priced into the stock. Anything short of the very worst may well send the stock up.
I wouldn't say broken
On the consumer side, Dell's business model is obviously not the knockout punch it once was. Part of the reason is that PCs just don't have the mystique they used to. Today, many PCs are bought at big-box retailers like Best Buy
The real story with Dell, though, is in the enterprise. Not only do business customers make up the lion's share of Dell's business, but that's also a much more profitable segment. For fiscal 2006, Dell's U.S. business sales grew 12% versus 4% for consumer sales, and they were twice as profitable. While the company certainly doesn't want to give away business on the consumer side, it's the enterprise customers that will continue to be the stable base, as well as the major growth opportunity.
Worth the wait
While Dell desperately needs to get past this accounting investigation, and its business could do with some changes, the company is still financially strong and churning out a good deal of cash. As of the most recent financial release, it was still solidly profitable and had more than $12.5 billion in cash and short-term investments.
Michael Dell's return to the CEO post may not be the cure-all, but he does own around 10% of the stock and has a major vested interest in whipping Dell back into shape. His company may look like a beached whale right now, but it has a tremendous amount of resources to help it get righted.
A story of falling market share, accounting screw-ups, and management shuffles may not be for everyone. For my fellow value hunters out there, though, this former glamour stock, which was trading at 34 times trailing earnings as recently as March 2005, is ripe for the picking.
Who doesn't love dogging Dell?
Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer own shares of Dell, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. Dell and Intel are Inside Value picks. Best Buy and Dell are Stock Advisor selections. You can visit Matt on Motley Fool CAPS. The Fool's disclosure policy is getting a Dell, dude.