Who might top Dell’s offer for EMC?

October 12, 2015, 7:15 PM UTC
Courtesy of EMC

EMC Corp. (EMC) this morning agreed to be taken (mostly) private by Dell Inc. for $67 billion, but included a “go shop” provision whereby it can solicit superior offers for the next 60 days.

It’s hard to imagine that any other company has both the resources and interest in besting Dell — let alone the time to figure out a more beneficial structure — but we’d be remiss in not at least pointing out the possible suitors for EMC:

IBM (IBM): For starters, IBM certainly has the resources. Its market cap is around three times larger than EMC’s, and it has more than $8 billion in cash on hand. The trouble is that IBM isn’t known for mega-mergers. In fact, its largest-ever purchase was a $5 billion deal for Cognos in 2007.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ): HP actually did try to buy EMC last year, but talks fell apart over price. EMC’s share price (pre-Dell reports) was a bit lower than it was during those discussions, but so is HP’s. Moreover, HP subsequently announced plans to split up its business. Hard to imagine either newly-independent unit would want to follow up a year of separation work with a year (or more) of combination work.

Microsoft (MSFT): This one would be politically incorrect given that Microsoft helped bankroll Dell’s own buyout two years ago, but CEO Satya Nadella is an enterprise-first guy who has shown some appetite for unusual M&A activity. Plus, it could literally pay cash for the entire thing.

Oracle (ORCL): This may be the strongest strategic fit, and Oracle was willing to pay $10.3 billion for PeopleSoft back in 2004. But its subsequent $7.4 billion purchase of Sun Microsystems was problematic and may have left Oracle nervous about acquiring still more hardware.

Cisco (CSCO): Better odds than most other companies on this list, but that’s really not saying too much. Plus, both Cisco and EMC today went out of their way to say that they’ll continue to work together going forward, which would suggest that each side is still getting what it wants from their non-merged relationship.

Amazon (AMZN): Again, not a full-scale EMC buyout, but perhaps a cloud unification play for VMware (VMW), an EMC-controlled virtualization group that will retain a public equity “stub” following the Dell merger. Then again, Amazon isn’t known for big purchases, having only ever bought one company for more than $1 billion (Zappos, for $1.2 billion in 2009).

General Electric (GE): Not to buy EMC, but perhaps to make a play for EMC-owned Pivotal, in which GE invested $105 million for a 10% stake back in 2010.

Private equity: Nope. Private equity alone can’t afford this, unless it somehow teams up with a large EMC shareholder to try and force an alternate structure. Kind of like what The Blackstone Group (BX) and Carl Icahn proposed during Dell’s 2013 buyout.

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