Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Asustek launches latest netbook challenge

By Elizabeth Tchii  /  STAFF REPORTER

Asustek Computer Inc (華碩) launched a new netbook computer yesterday — a day after its closest rival introduced its newest low-cost model. Asustek also announced plans to buy back NT$2.88 billion (US$83.2 million) in shares on the open market to lift shareholders’ earnings.

On Tuesday, Acer Inc (宏碁) launched its latest version of the Aspire One and claimed to have led the netbook market in Taiwan, Japan and Europe last year.

Asustek, however, questioned Acer’s claim, saying it was the leader in the netbook market in Japan and seven European countries last year, based on the latest reports published by market research firms BNC and GFK.

Moreover, “in the US market, Chuck May, our new recruit from last year, has successfully pushed Asus products into Best Buy, and is now aggressively working on other channels,” said Lillian Lin (林倩如), an Asustek director.

May was formerly the senior vice president of retail product planning at Gateway Inc, which was bought out by Acer in 2007.

The company believes its 10-inch 1000HE netbook, which can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com, will be its best defense against Acer, as it boasts 9.5 hours of battery life, 802.11n wireless technology and is equipped with an N280 CPU in a more ergonomic design package.

“Since the beginning of 2009, our EeePC has topped the bestseller charts on Amazon.com by taking the first three spots. Meanwhile, the 1000HE is currently Amazon’s No. 2 and No. 3 bestsellers,” said Jose Liao (廖逸翔), a notebook product manager at Asustek.

As Asustek is reducing its model variety this year, it will have only two major netbook offerings: the 8.9-inch and 10 inch versions, Liao said.

The company will offer different specifications of the 10-inch model, which will retail at NT$15,900, NT$16,900, NT$17,900 and NT$19,900, to meet consumers’ varying needs, Liao said.

The 8.9-inch model will continue to retail at NT$13,900, the company said.

Asustek said yesterday that its inventory was under control. Last month alone, the company recorded a sizable sell-through of 22,000 netbooks across various local channels, capturing 75 percent of the domestic market, it said.

Chief executive officer Jerry Shen (沈振來) told an investor conference earlier this month that the company hoped to reduce its inventory period by about 20 days to between 40 to 50 days by the end of the current quarter.

Shares of Asustek rose 1.4 percent to close at NT$32.60 yesterday on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

Asustek also said in a stock exchange filing that its board had approved a share-repurchase program. It plans to buy back NT$2.88 billion or 60 million shares at between NT$23 and NT$48 per share on the open market. The buyback starts today and will run through April 18, the filing said.

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