It's hard to be a world player when you're always running out of money. Just ask Beny Alagem, CEO of Packard Bell Electronics, the country's leading seller of personal computers. Packard Bell's revenues tripled, to nearly $3 billion, over the past two years. But its razor-thin margins aren't enough to underwrite that kind of breathtaking growth.

So the company's announcement on July 5 that it had raised almost $200 million in new capital came as no surprise. The surprise: Packard Bell will team with NEC, which dominates Japan's PC market with a 50% share, to expand into multimedia markets, including game systems, set-top boxes for TVs, and mobile computing devices. Says Alagem: "We would not have pursued NEC for the capital alone."

NEC will pay $170 million for a 20% stake in Packard Bell. France's Groupe Bull, which took a similar position for $40 million two years ago, will ante up an additional $27 million to maintain its 20% share. NEC also owns 3.7% of Bull and has agreed to raise its stake to 17%.

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