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Uncooking the books costs Dell 'only' $92m

Let the buybacks begin

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Dell today presented the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with cleaned-up accounts for the years 2003-2006 and the first quarter in 2007. The restatements show that Dell earned $92m less net income than it had previously stated in earlier filings.

In August, the company said that it might have to write down up $50m-$150m to put right "accounting errors and irregularities". Unnamed senior executives were blamed for allowing, or asking for, the books to be cooked to show that quarterly targets were met.

In the context of Dell's $12bn net income during the period, the writedown is a drop in the ocean. But what does it say for the company culture at the time, that such chicanery could be allowed to happen?

In August, Dell said it had fired or retrained or reassigned or reprimanded those involved. It named no names.

In good news for shareholders, Dell today said it is to resume stock buybacks. In a bullish research note yesterday, Goldman Sachs analysts predicted that the company would spend up to $8bn on the buyback, which should help its tax raise. The double whammy means that Dell needs to deliver less than seven per cent revenue growth to get 20 per cent earnings growth.

Goldman Sachs also reckons that Dell's new retail channel will add $500m-$1bn in revenue over the next year (some margin of error, there). In recent weeks, Dell signed up Wal-Mart and Staples in the US; more retailers are on their way, Goldman Sachs says. Finally, the woeful DRAM market means that Dell's gross margins will be higher than previously anticipated. ®

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