Lenovo keeps Packard Bell on watch

Lenovo, the world’s third largest personal computer company, would still like to acquire Packard Bell despite Taiwanese rival Acer’s move to take control of the European PC vendor as part its $710m takeover of US-based Gateway.

“Packard Bell is a great fit, and we’re still very interested," Reuters news agency quoted Bill Amelio, Lenovo CEO, as saying on Tuesday. “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Mr Amelio’s comments contrasted sharply with remarks he made last week in a telephone interview with the Financial Times, during which he said further acquisitions by Lenovo – which bought IBM's PC unit in 2005 – was not one of his “top three things I think about every day”.

Lenovo was widely thought to have been thwarted in its attempt to buy Packard Bell after Acer announced last month it would purchase Gateway, which has first refusal over shares in Packard Bell’s holding company.

Asked last week how much of a blow it was to Lenovo that Packard Bell was going to Acer, Mr Amelio said: “The opportunity was presented, the fit was good with Lenovo, but it's not one of the things that I would lose any sleep on.”

A Lenovo spokesman said Mr Amelio had not meant to suggest that the company’s bid for Packard Bell had failed. He said Lenovo was “continuing to review” its options.

Acer has appeared keen to deny Lenovo the chance to buy Packard Bell, a deal that could help its rival Chinese company remedy its weak European presence. Europe is Acer’s strongest market, accounting for half its worldwide shipments

Gateway has announced it intends to exercise its right of first refusal to acquire all shares in Packard Bell’s holding company from John Hui, the Hong Kong-born entrepreneur who also holds shares in Gateway.

Some observers have suggested Lenovo might make such a generous offer for Packard Bell that Acer would be simply unable to match it.

However, such an approach could dismay Lenovo investors, especially given the continuing management challenge the Hong Kong-listed company faces in integrating the former IBM PC business and building its global brand.

Packard Bell and Mr Hui declined to comment. Acer said it could not comment on whether Lenovo might be able to purchase Packard Bell, but that it hoped its Gateway acquisition would be completed by the end of December. Gateway declined to comment.

With reporting by Pan Kwan Yuk in Paris

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