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Acer's tiny raft of profit smashed onto rocks by Gateway and co

PC maker dives into the red thanks to $120m write-down

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The much touted recovery at PC maker Acer didn't show up in 2012: a write-down on its assets dragged its accounts into the red.

The vendor said its sales in 2012 slid 9.6 per cent year on year to NT$429.5bn ($14.4bn, £9.53bn), bagging it a razor-thin operating profit of NT$1.03bn ($34.6m, £22.8m).

But that was wiped out by an "intangible assets impairment" charge of NT$3.5bn ($117m, £77.5m), leaving it with a net loss of NT$2.91bn ($97.8m, £64.5m). Without the impairment charges, its profit after tax for the whole year would have been NT$586m ($19.7m, £12.9m). Some vendors wouldn't get out of bed for that much.

This impairment charge was due to a write-down of the book worth of Acer's sub-brands that include Gateway, Packard Bell, eMachines and eTen.

In the final three months of 2012, Acer's turnover collapsed 20 per cent year-on-year to NT$101.5bn ($3.41bn, £2.25bn). Operating profit for that quarter was NT$109m ($3.66m, £2.4m), compared to NT$82m in Q4 2011, and loss after tax was NT$576m ($19.3m, £12.7m), "reflecting losses from recognised intangible assets impairment".

The majority of Q4 sales happened in the EMEA region, some 38 per cent, while 28 per cent were made in Pan America, 18 per cent in Asia Pacific, 14 per cent in China and two per cent in Taiwan.

The product sales mix shows why Acer did not make up ground in the year: 66 per cent notebook; 16 per cent desktop; ten per cent others; and eight per cent display. The others include tablets and smartphones - areas that Apple and Samsung have dominated.

This is the second consecutive year the once high-flying notebook kingpin has failed to turn in a profit for shareholders; in calendar 2011 it made a loss after tax of NT$6.6bn ($221m, £147m). That was due to the collapse of the PC market and the discovery of ageing kit sat in a warehouse in southern Europe that cost Acer $150m to write down.

Things were supposed to get better on the forecasting side - and indeed they have according to distributors - but the problem for Acer is that demand for traditional personal computers didn't improve: in fact, it got worse.

According to Gartner, PC shipments into the distribution channel fell 3.5 per cent in 2012. Acer remained the world's fourth biggest shifter of tin but its rate of decline was nearly twice the market average at 6.7 per cent.

And the latest research by IDC will not settle the nerves of the major PC makers: a February slowdown in China - which props up more than one fifth of the global market - hit companies worldwide.

The bean counter yesterday warned that PC revenue in Q1 2013 will likely slide by double digits rather than the 7.7 per cent decline it previously estimated. Acer has not has a good start to this year either, warning its first-quarter sales could drop by up to 15 per cent sequentially, although its bosses reckons it will be back in the black this year. ®

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