ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) ¿ Dell Inc. said Friday that it has begun soliciting outstanding shares of Perot Systems Corp. as the first step in acquiring the company.

Last month, Dell announced that it was buying Perot Systems for $3.9 billion, or $30 per share in cash, as it seeks to expand beyond the PC business and into tech services. The deal is expected to close by the end of January.

Dell's tender offer asks for all outstanding Perot Class A common shares. The offer expires at midnight on Nov. 2 EST.

Dell is branching out beyond PCs because it's getting tougher to make money in that business. Tough competition, fluctuating prices for components and the popularity of cheaper, smaller laptops called "netbooks" have hurt profits.

Shares of Round Rock, Texas-based Dell rose 7 cents to $15.21 in midday trading. Perot Systems, based in Plano, Texas, gained 7 cents to $29.79.

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