Mon, May 12, 2014 - Page 13 News List

Acer’s profitability still at risk: analysts

NO RESPITE:Despite beating market expectations by returning to the black in the past quarter, the PC vendor must control operating costs and sales momentum

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

Acer Inc (宏碁) returned to profitability last quarter, but the world’s fourth-largest PC vendor needs to better control its operating costs and regain notebook sales momentum in order to sustain its profitability, analysts said.

“Despite a tiny profit in the first quarter of the year, a turnaround is a positive,” Yuanta Securities Corp (元大證券) analyst Vincent Chen (陳豐丰) said in a client note.

On Thursday, Acer reported that it posted a net profit of NT$1 million (US$33,200) and earnings per share of NT$0.0004 last quarter, ending three consecutive quarters of losses.

The results beat analysts’ consensus forecast of losses between NT$700 million and NT$1.4 billion.

However, the Sijhih District (汐止), New Taipei City-based company may not be able to stay profitable for too long, as it is expected to face weak seasonal factors as soon as next quarter, which is traditionally a peak season in the PC market, Chen said.

“For now, we do not expect strong earnings growth after a turnaround, owing to stagnant industry growth and strong competition,” Chen said.

“We are also concerned about the impact of the low-price trend on the momentum of sales growth,” he added, referring to Acer’s newly launched Aspire-series notebook products that start at US$269.99.

Chen said Acer’s product launch took place earlier than its rivals this year.

The company unveiled a series of notebooks and tablets in New York on April 29, ahead of peers that plan new product introductions next quarter.

As such, Acer was expected to take the lead in the current quarter, with notebook shipments forecast to rise by about 20 percent sequentially this quarter, versus a 10 percent decline to rivals such as Lenovo Group Ltd (聯想), Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc, he added.

Because most of Acer’s new notebook, all-in-one PC and tablet products are not to be available until later this month or next month, the company still lacks sales momentum, Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Chang (張家福) said.

Chang said that the company’s rising marketing and sales-channel establishing costs will also harm its performance during the second half of the year, as well as low visibility provding a challenge to profit from its core business.

However, Fubon Securities Co (富邦證券) analyst Arthur Liao (廖顯毅) said he forecast Acer to deliver strong earnings this quarter and next quarter as its notebook business is turning profitable with operating expenses under control.

“We think that once the company returns to regular operation after three years of struggling, with normal channel inventory, refined management and solid channel relationships, it should be able to achieve solid sales and profits,” Liao said in a client note.

He estimated Acer would post sales of NT$84 billion for this quarter, down 6 percent year-on-year, but up 9.48 percent quarter-on-quarter, with net profits of NT$633 million, or NT$0.22 per share.

Liao suggested that investors shift to Acer as he revised upward his rating for the company’s stock to “add” from “sell” last month with a target price lift to NT$24.3 from NT$23.

Yuanta maintained its rating of “hold” with a target price of NT$21, while Deutsche Bank reiterated its rating of “sell,” but raised its a target price from NT$14 to NT$16.

Acer’s shares closed down 1.03 percent at NT$19.2 in Taipei trading on Friday.

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