Acer could block Lenovo’s growth in global PC market

A fast growth rate and recent acquisitions in the U.S. and Europe will extend Acer Inc.’s lead over Lenovo Group Ltd. as the world’s third-largest PC vendor behind Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc., according to a study released by Gartner Inc. Wednesday.

Acer and Lenovo stood neck-and-neck in global PC shipments with 8.1 percent and 8 percent market shares, respectively, in the third quarter of 2007. Before acquisitions, Acer shipped 5.54 million PC units worldwide, a healthy 58 percent year-over-year increase. The growth rate overshadowed Lenovo, which shipped 5.48 million PCs, a 22.8 percent increase.

Gartner’s quarterly figures were compiled before Acer finished its acquisition of Gateway Inc. on Wednesday for US$710 million. Acer also funded Gateway’s proposed acquisition of European PC vendor Packard Bell BV for an undisclosed sum. That was a blow to Lenovo Group Ltd., which in early August revealed it was in discussions with Packard Bell over a possible acquisition.

Packard Bell is largely a European vendor and has a small market share, similar to eMachines in the U.S before it was acquired by Gateway, said Diana Maranon, managing partner at Averil Capital Markets Groups Inc. Maranon’s company brokered Gateway’s Packard Bell acquisition.

An IDC report, also released Wednesday, listed Lenovo as the world’s third-largest PC vendor but indicated Acer could overtake Lenovo with its growth rates in the Europe, Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific markets, excluding Japan. Acer’s U.S. PC shipments grew more than 100 percent during the third quarter, though it could face more pressure from competitors as it continues to expand, IDC said.

In the U.S., Acer replicated the business strategy that made it highly successful in Europe: de-emphasize retail, sell through indirect channels, and offer low, competitive prices, said Roger Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

Acer stands at the low end in the U.S. market, and the Gateway acquisition gives it a good position in the middle and high-end markets, Kay said.

Gateway’s worldwide shipments increased 8 percent in the third quarter, though U.S. shipments fell 14.4 year over year, Gartner said. Acer’s global growth strategy is paying dividends and could affect Lenovo in the U.S. and Europe, Kay said.

The Packard Bell acquisition was a defensive move for Acer to ensure Lenovo doesn’t get a toehold in the European market, Kay said. Acer is already one of the top notebook sellers in Europe.

Lenovo showed positive growth in global markets, but Acer’s acquisitions block Lenovo from acquiring some valuable shelf space for product distribution, said Charles Smulders, managing vice president at Gartner Inc., in an e-mail interview. Lenovo could not be reached for comment.

Global PC shipments during the third quarter were 68.4 million, driven by high demand for laptops in the home market, Gartner said. HP was the world’s top PC vendor, with 12.8 million units shipped, a 18.8 percent market share, and 33.1 percent year-over-year volume growth.

Dell followed with a 14.4 percent market share, shipping 9.86 million units, a 3.5 percent increase.

The survey includes desktop PCs, laptops and x86 servers.

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