RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Lenovo’s big jump in profits and recent statistics documenting a surge in sales are generating some positive views about the PC maker from analysts.
While Chief Executive Officer William Amelio and the world’s No. 3 computer maker still face challenges, the analysts have been impressed by improvements ranging from improved margins to growing market awareness generating by a growing global marketing campaign. From F-1 to the Beijing Olympics, the Lenovo name is present.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Computer Business Quarterly and Technology Business Research, delivered a very upbeat report on Lenovo’s prospects. But it also contained some warnings, such as component prices and price pressure.
“TBR believes Lenovo’s revenue growth and increased profitability in 2Q07 demonstrates that the company is successfully executing on its strategy of lowering costs and replicating its Chinese channel strategy worldwide,” he wrote.
“Lenovo’s 2Q07 operating margin of 2.0% was its greatest since 3Q05. But TBR believes the margin is vulnerable to increased component costs.”
Gottheil also likes the value of the ThinkPad brand, which of course dates to IBM’s PC division, which Lenovo bought two years ago. Lenovo is starting to remove the IBM logo from some laptops, keeping ThinkPad.
“Increased direct sales to large enterprises show that Lenovo has managed to keep the value of the ThinkPad brand, as it separates the brand identity from that of IBM,” Gottheil wrote. “However, TBR believes that Lenovo has not yet developed a strong brand identity of its own, apart from ThinkPad. We believe this is a detriment as the company sells (small business)-oriented PCs under the Lenovo brand name and will sell consumer PCs under the Lenovo own brand name in the U.S. and (Europe, Middle East, Africa) in the future.”
Gottheil did warn that “Lenovo will be challenged to maintain profitability in the second half of 2007” due to increased costs. But he also noted that management is “committed to growth, and TBR believes the company will maintain prices despite higher costs, and margins will decrease.”
Further, he likes Amelio’s commitment to sales in the U.S. and elsewhere with an aggressive sales strategy similar to what it has used to build market dominance in its land of origin – China.
“Lenovo was profitable in all geographic regions, showing that the company is no longer dependant on the Chinese market to be profitable,” he said. “China continues to be Lenovo’s most profitable market. Unit shipments in China grew 30% year over year, compared with 15% in the Americas.”
Still, a 15 percent jump in the Americas is good news for Lenovo, because it has struggled to get traction in the homeland of Big Blue. Recent deals with Best Buy and Circuit City are part of Amelio’s plan to boost small business and consumer sales. Lenovo also is building a distribution center in the Triad to support U.S. sales, and a new production plant is to be built in Mexico.
Gottheil wasn’t alone in his praise. Bryan Ma, an analyst with IDC, told Reuters he liked Lenovo’s performance.
Reuters also noted that Kirk yang, an analyst at Citigroup, had commented on Lenovo improving its operating margins in the U.S. to 3.4 percent from 1.6 percent. Now that thin a margin – some might say anorexic – would sound anemic in many businesses. But in the PC world thin is the word, and even a small improvement can make a big difference in overall profitability.
Lenovo’s changes haven’t come without cost. A lot of former IBMers were let go as Amelio slashed costs.
Hopefully, if Lenovo continues to grow, some of those who were let go will get an opportunity to return. That is, if they want to.