Dell delays earnings due to accounting issues

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Dell suffered a further blow on Thursday as shares fell following news that the company would delay its quarterly results because of accounting issues that have sparked a formal investigation by US regulators.

Shares in the world’s second-biggest personal computer maker fell 2.5 per cent to close at $25.10, after Dell said the Securities and Exchange Commission had formalised a probe into revenue recognition and other accounting matters at the company. The move marked an escalation of an informal investigation that began in August.

Dell also said it would be forced to delay its quarterly results until the end of the month because of complications arising from “certain accounting and financial reporting matters.” The company had been scheduled to report its quarterly results on Thursday. It said the decision to delay its results was not related to the escalation of the SEC probe.

Dell’s shares had risen from a multi-year low of $19.91 in July on hopes that the company could see its results bolstered by improving margins.

The twin announcements marked the latest setback for Dell, which has been struggling this year against a string of missed results.

In September, Dell’s accounting problems forced the company to postpone a big meeting with Wall Street analysts. The meeting had already been rescheduled from April after Dell said it needed more time to get to grips with changes in the personal computer market.

Richard Farmer, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, said that although Dell could benefit from a move away from aggressive pricing that has eaten into profit margins this year, its still faces significant challenges in the longer term as competitors reduce costs.

He said an ongoing fall in the average selling price of computers had chipped away at the savings customers reap by bypassing retailers to buy computers from Dell over the telephone and the internet.

“The indirect channel is seeing a resurgence,” he said. “The penalty for buying computers through a Best Buy or Circuit City is less with PC prices having come down so much over a number of years.”

Mr Farmer said there was not enough information available about the potential accounting problems to assess their likely impact.

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