Dell's quarterly profits down 31%

Dell's quarterly revenues again hurt by a shrinking consumer business

Computer maker Dell has reported quarterly profits and revenues ahead of expectations, in what could be its last set of results as a public company.

The world's third biggest PC maker said net profit in the last three months of its financial year fell 31% to $530m, compared with the same time a year ago.

Revenues were hurt by a shrinking consumer business.

Founder Michael Dell has offered to buy the business for $24.4 billion as the firm struggles to compete with cheaper Asian rivals, as well as the boom in smartphones and tablet computers.

The firm has started to focus more on corporate needs and less on the home consumer.

The proposed sale, announced just two weeks ago, diminished the importance of the numbers released last night.

The fourth-quarter report became even less significant when the company canceled Michael Dell's previously scheduled participation on a conference call to discuss the results with analysts.

Michael Dell, who founded the company 29 years ago, is leading the buyout, which is facing opposition from two of Dell's biggest shareholders.

The company, which is based in Round Rock, Texas, declined to field questions about the deal or the shareholder efforts to wrangle a bid above the currently agreed upon price of $13.65 per share.

Southeastern Asset Management and T Rowe Price, the company's two largest shareholders after Michal Dell, have said they will vote against the deal unless the offer is sweetened.

The company's board so far has argued that the deal negotiated with Michael Dell and a group of investors led by Silver Lake is a fair one. If the deal closes, it will end Dell's 25-year history as a publicly traded company.

Michael Dell and his backers are betting that the company will be better able to diversify beyond the PC business without having to cater to the stock market's demands for higher profits from one quarter to the next.

Dell's slump stems from weakening demand for personal computers as more technology spending shifts toward smartphones and tablet computers.

The most recent quarter showed Dell is still losing ground, although the drop-off was not quite as bad as analysts anticipated. Dell said it earned $530m, or 30 cents per share, for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended on February 1. That was a 31% decline from $764m, or 43 cents per share, in the quarter a year ago.

Excluding acquisition and severance-related charges, earnings were 40 cents per share. That was a cent above the average forecast of analysts polled by FactSet. Revenue totaled $14.3 billion, down 11% from a year ago.

It also beat analyst expectations at $14.1 billion.

Dell first opened a manufacturing centre in Ireland in 1990 in Limerick to serve Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Restructuring in recent years has led to a reduction in its presence in Ireland, but it still employs about 2,000 people here.