Gad: Farmer in the Dell

Dell ( DELL) is the technology baby being thrown with the bath water. How else do you explain the company trading for less than 7x and sitting on 25% of its market cap in net cash? Here's how: people still look at Dell as a computer company. And that incorrect assumption creates a bargain opportunity for investors today.

Dell's PC business is declining, and that trend is likely to continue. For that reason, the company continues to focus on and invest in its enterprise software solutions business. Dell is positioning itself to rely more on its higher-margin service business vs. its traditional PC hardware business.

What Dell is attempting to do is not unlike what IBM ( IBM) has done over the past decade. IBM sold its computer business to China's Lenovo and began focusing on its software solutions. Over that time period, IBM has transformed itself from a stale computer company to one of the most dominant players in the world -- so good, in fact, that it convinced Warren Buffett to buy $10 billion worth of shares.

Uncertainty is the cloud that hangs over Dell's share price. Due to weakening PC sales as people shift to tablets and more Mac products, no one is quite sure what to make of earnings. PC sales presently account for about one-third of the company's profits; the other 65% comes from the higher-margin software solutions business, which promises Dell the best opportunity for continued growth. As a result, Dell's earnings visibility is opaque, and we have a $12 stock with nearly $3 per share in net cash. Furthermore, the company is generating over $2 per share a year in free cash flow. When you strip out the net cash, Dell is trading for approximately 5x free cash flow.

That's an extremely low valuation, especially for a high-quality, cash-rich large-cap stock. It's no surprise then that since Michael Dell returned as CEO five years ago, he has slowly acquired over $500 million worth of Dell shares. His personal buybacks coincide with the company's own buyback of over one-third of a stake during the past decade. Furthermore, the company finally joined the ranks of Microsoft ( MSFT), Intel ( INTC) and other tech behemoths by recently announcing an annual dividend for a 2.5% yield.

At $12 a share, Dell shares are hovering near a 52-week low. The last time they reached this valuation back in 2010, shares climbed to over $17. Two years later, you get the same price and more attractive valuation, as you now a lower share count, a dividend that will probably get boosted and continued cash flow generation. It's a win-win scenario from any angle at this price.
At the time of publication, Gad had no positions in the stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.

Sham Gad is the managing partner of Gad Capital Management, a value-focused investment firm based in Athens, Ga. Gad has written extensively for The Motley Fool and was a securities analyst for UAS Asset Management, a small value investment fund in New York City, in 2007. From 2002-2005, Gad managed assets for the Gad Investment Group.

Additionally, Gad has just released a new book, The Business of Value Investing: Six Essential Elements to Buying Companies Like Warren Buffett. He earned his BBA and MBA at the University of Georgia. Gad appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.