Plans to take Dell private by leveraging the PC maker's balance sheet are misguided right now, CNBC's Jim Cramer said on "Squawk on the Street" Tuesday, because the company is facing lower margins and increased competition from rival Hewlett-Packard.
A "hobbled Dell" wants to see Hewlett-Packard fall apart, Cramer said, yet the company has been a "fantastic performer this year." Hewlett Packard, which has been going through a turnaround in recent quarters, has seen its stock rise more than 75 percent year-to-date, while Dell has run up 32 percent since Jan. 1 on competing bids to take the company private.
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On Tuesday, HP announced a shuffle of its executive suite, including a move for Todd Bradley, an executive vice president at the company, into a new role heading up the company's strategic growth initiatives division.
"I'm sure [Tom Bradley] is going to come out with guns blazing," Cramer said, expecting a similar approach to that of HP CEO Meg Whitman. Bradley will work directly with Whitman, helping to build the company's business in China and "identifying potential partnership opportunities."
"Whitman fixes the balance sheet first, now she's going and playing offense. At the same time that they're loading up the balance sheet with debt at Dell," Cramer explained. "It couldn't be worse timing, it couldn't be."
Cramer pointed out that "retro-tech" companies were performing well, such as SanDisk, because the price of internal components for personal computers is hovering at relatively high levels. This will hurt margins for PC makers, he said. "Again, you don't want to be Dell. You certainly don't want to lever Dell."
"I think this is the bridge too far for Dell," Cramer said, comparing it to Tribune Co., which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008 after taking on high debt levels while bringing the company private.
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For Dell, the decision to go private is "just a decision that the balance sheet can handle it," he said. "I think if Hewlett- Packard weren't so strong these days, it probably could. But Meg Whitman is going on offense, you heard her say bad things about Dell on the call."
Activist investor Carl Icahn is leading a competing bid for Dell, challenging founder Michael Dell and private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners. Icahn has contended that his plan will offer more value to shareholders, but will require a large amount of debt as well as additional leverage on Dell's balance sheet to complete the transaction, which is expected to include a $12 special dividend.
However, Icahn was recently reported to be considering a drop of his bid for Dell, after needing an additional $2 billion to complete the transaction.