Acer Returns to Profit After Losses Caused by Slowing Demand

Acer Inc., the world’s fourth-largest computer maker, returned to profit after two quarters of losses and said new high-value models will boost earnings this year.

Fourth-quarter net income was NT$75 million ($2.5 million) compared with NT$3.9 billion a year earlier, Lilia Wang, acting chief financial officer of the Taipei-based company said in a conference call today. The average of 18 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for a profit of NT$176 million.

Competition from Apple Inc.’s iPad, a slowing global economy and weak sales of its own tablet devices led Acer to post its sixth straight quarterly revenue decline. Earnings may improve this quarter as a shortage of hard drives eases and demand for its Ultrabooks, high-end thin laptops, climbs.

“The worst for Acer is over with the hard-disk shortage being a remaining challenge,” Vincent Chen, who rates the stock “sell” at Yuanta Securities Co. in Hong Kong, said before the earnings announcement. “Growth is going to be in Ultrabooks and Acer is pushing to make them even cheaper.”

Acer climbed 2.9 percent to NT$44.30 at the close in Taipei trading, before the earnings announcement. The stock, which declined 61 percent in 2011, has advanced 26 percent this year, outperforming the benchmark Taiex index’s 13 percent gain.

Consolidated revenue fell 14 percent to NT$127.7 billion for the period, beating the NT$112.5 billion average of 19 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Ultrabook Sales

The fourth-quarter marked a turnaround for the company, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer J. T. Wang said on a conference call today. Ultrabook sales volumes are expected to increase in the second quarter, he said.

Floods in Thailand during October and November disrupted production by hard disk drive makers including Western Digital Corp., prompting prices of the storage devices to rise as much as 20 percent and crimping computer supply.

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, last month said sales of computers may have been lower than analyst estimates during the fourth quarter because of the floods.

Ultrabooks, a category of thin and light laptops developed by Intel Corp. to match Apple’s MacBooks, may help revive demand for notebooks. Acer released its Aspire S5 last month, a device that’s 15 millimeters thick and weighs less than 1.35 kilograms (2.98 pounds). Ultrabooks aren’t affected by the floods because they use chips to store data.

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