Speculation is rife that NEC is the bidder for Olivetti's PC unit after the Italian company refused to comment this week on rumours that it has broken up negotiations to sell its PC unit to the Klesch group to take up a better offer.
NEC is understood to have renewed its earlier attempt to buy the troubled PC division. NEC/Packard Bell raised $115 million of immediate finance this week (PC Dealer, 13 November), arranged by Banque Nationale de Paris and Sumitomo Bank. These two organisations were among investors that put heavy pressure on Olivetti to sell its PC division two months ago.
Although company officials would not comment on speculation, a source at Packard Bell said: 'We've never been particularly strong in Europe and Olivetti owns lots of corporate business there. Packard Bell wants a share of that market.'
The Klesch group, led by US financier Gary Klesch, is one of the few organisations that has shown interest in buying Olivetti PC. Klesch sent a final offer to the Italian company about three weeks ago, agreeing to pay up to L350 billion for the business.
But sources close to Olivetti say it decided to reject the bid from Klesch this week following a better offer from elsewhere. Olivetti has been trying to sell its PC unit for two years.
Paul Mahoney, general manager of the Olivetti PC company in the UK, said: 'The PC company is doing well, and the sooner we split off the better.
It doesn't fit the structure of the group whose strategy now is telecoms and systems integration as opposed to hardware manufacture.'
Mahoney said the PC company has been profitable for the past five months, and has been growing market share by one per cent to two per cent in most of Europe. 'We have about a 4.5 per cent market share in the UK,' he said.
'It is imperative they sell it,' said Nimrod Schwartzman, an analyst at James Capel. 'They are on the line saying it will be done this year.'
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