RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Lenovo just may be slowing down some of its growth efforts as the global economic climate gets a bit more shaky.

Milko Van Duijl, the top executive for the European, Middle East and African division of the world’s No. 3 PC manufacturer, issued some clear warnings in an interview with the prestigious Financial Times.

"We are on guard,” he told the paper, which has a global audience. “We are really looking at banking signals, interbank lending, and consumer confidence. There is a whole list of countries we would like to launch in, but we need to make sure we will get a return on investment. I am a believer in focus – doing fewer things but doing them right, and only going into markets where we can do well.”

That’s a pretty strong set of statements, given Lenovo’s aggressive international efforts to drive consumer sales and expand its corporate efforts. The company, which broke ground Monday for a third building on its headquarters campus in Morrisville, recently announced it would build a production plant in Poland and a distribution center in the Triad.

However, Lenovo also decided not to continue its corporate sponsorship of the Olympic Games after next year’s Olympiad in Beijing. Acer, its primary competitor for No. 3 in PC sales behind HP and Dell, grabbed that sponsorship and soon will absorb U.S.-based Gateway. That deal likely will push Acer past Lenovo in sales.

Van Duijl said if the world’s economic climate worsens Lenovo may scale back its growth efforts.

“The growth of retail sales in the U.S. has been less than anticipated,” he added.