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Dell-EMC deal may accelerate Pivotal IPO: Report

November 2, 2015, 6:18 PM UTC
Michael Dell Addresses Oracle Open World Conference
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Dell CEO Michael Dell delivers a keynote address during the 2013 Oracle Open World conference on September 25, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The week-long Oracle Open World conference runs through September 26. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photo by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

EMC chief executive Joe Tucci and former Pivotal chief executive Paul Maritz have long acknowledged that the company, co-owned by EMC and VMware, was headed for an IPO. Someday. Now, that public offering could be floated next year with the approval of Michael Dell, according to a Re/code report on Sunday.

On October 12, Dell, with Silver Lake Partners announced plans to buy EMC (EMC), which in turn owns 80% of VMware (VMW), and thus gets Pivotal as part of that $67 billion purchase. The deal, barring unforeseen events, is expected to close by the middle of 2016, so the timing on this public offering, if true, is aggressive, and one Pivotal source said he expected the IPO in the 2017 timeframe.

On the other hand, if the ownership team can float an IPO that would generate $1 billion to $1.5 billion, that could make a nice dent in the massive debt that the Dell buyout will incur.

Spokespeople from EMC and Silver Lake declined to comment. A Dell spokesman said that since EMC is still a separate company to date, Dell wouldn’t comment on its business decisions. But, he added, Dell does not generally comment on rumor and speculation.

But there are questions: For example, what is General Electric’s (GE) role? Two years ago, the industrial giant paid $105 million for a 10% stake in Pivotal and has since been an ardent public booster of Pivotal’s big data expertise and Cloud Foundry development capabilities for building modern software. There was speculation that GE itself might end up buying Pivotal outright, but an IPO would presumably let GE recoup and profit from its earlier investment.

In August, Pivotal execs said that the Cloud Foundry business had hit $100 million in annual revenue. At that time two sources close to the company told Fortune that the two other core pieces of the business, Pivotal Labs (which builds custom applications for customers) and the Big Data Suite, also each log about $100 million in revenue, if not profit. What’s not clear is how much of that revenue flows from GE itself. One source close to Pivotal characterized GE as Pivotal’s largest customer by far. EMC and Pivotal do not break out that information.

And, other than GE, there are many Pivotal stakeholders, including current and former employees, who would very much like to see the IPO happen, whether it’s in 2016 or later.

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