Dell shares soar on talk of going private

NEW YORK (AFP) - Dell shares soared on Monday as rumours spread that the Texas-based computer maker was exploring the option of going private with the help of equity firms.

Dell shares were up more than 12 per cent to US$12.27 as the close of the trading day neared on the Nasdaq exchange, giving the company a stock-based value of nearly US$22 billion (S$26.9 billion).

Unconfirmed word reached investors that Dell was in talks to delist itself from the exchange and sell itself into private hands, according to Meeschaert Capital Markets president Gregori Volokhine.

Dell declined to comment on what it referred to as rumour and speculation. The stock surge was attributed to belief in the market that taking the company private would require buyers to pay a "significant premium" to get shares, Mr Volokhine said.

The move, considered far from certain on Monday, would come as smartphones and tablets eclipse laptop and desktop computers as preferred devices for lifestyles in which the Internet is increasingly accessed on the go.

Industry tracker Gartner on Monday reported that the PC market saw shipments worldwide shrink 3.5 per cent last year. Dell, the third largest PC maker, saw its share of the market shrink by 12.3 per cent.

Volokhine expected Dell to soon make a decision about going private, a move he said would take several investment funds given the high price tag.

Shares of powerhouse Dell rival Hewlett-Packard also rose on Monday, increasing more than five per cent to US$16.98 as the formal trading day neared its close. HP sales dropped 6.7 per cent last year, according to Gartner.