Dell has revealed it has sought advice from investment banks on a potential IPO for the tech giant, sowing seeds of doubt about whether its first-choice "Class V" flotation is possible.
Dell initially released an elaborate plan in July, detailing how it would bypass a traditional, underwritten initial public offering through buying out holders of VMware tracking stock, DVMT, using a mix of Dell equity and cash.
However, in a regulatory filing this week, Dell confirmed that although the Class V route is still its preferred method, it has been exploring a straightforward IPO for its return to the public market as plan B.
In the filing, Dell described its latest meetings with the banks as just "a potential contingency plan in the event that the Class V transaction is not consummated".
Dell also told investors that if its Class V method is not approved by the end of 2018, it does not mean that the Texas-based firm will automatically go with a traditional IPO.
"There is no assurance that the board will determine to proceed with an initial public offering of its Class C Common Stock in the event that the Class V transaction is not consummated," it said.
With stocks valued at $109 (€94.77) a share in cash through Dell's Class V method, Bloomberg reported that some investors believe the valuation was too high, which could scupper the vendor's plans.
Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn - who owns a 1.2 per cent stake in DVMT - is believed to be among them.
In whatever form, Dell's impending return to the stock market will be its second after it first listed in 1988 just four years after the company's inception.
Dell's CEO Michael Dell and private equity house Silver Lake Partners then took the company private in 2013 for $24.9bn.
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