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Lenovo

Lenovo Group (China)

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Lenovo became the world's top-selling PC brand for the first time in 2013, but slipped back into second place again after four years. It is almost certainly the most widely known Chinese brand, and arguably a model for other Chinese companies seeking a wider international presence. It secured a global profile in 2004 though the acquisition of IBM's PC division. However that deal proved more troublesome than had been anticipated. Tied to maintaining IBM's high standards of quality, Lenovo's market share was undercut in Western territories by more aggressive low-end competitors. Although it maintained dominance of its domestic market and of the wider Asia Pacific region, it lost its position as the worldwide #3 PC manufacturer during 2007 to Taiwanese rival Acer. Since 2010, though, the group has made an extraordinary recovery, not least through two smart deals which added strength in Japan and Western Europe. As a result, Lenovo regained its third place ranking in 2011, overtook longtime #2 Dell in the final quarter of that year, and then finally overtook HP in 2Q 2013. It remains the best-selling PC brand in China by a considerable margin, a position it has held since 1997, and is now the #2 locally in smartphones behind Samsung. In two significant deals announced in early 2014, Lenovo agreed to acquire IBM's lower spec server business as well as the Motorola handset business from Google.

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Click here for Adbrands Account Assignments for Lenovo. The group declared advertising and promotional expenses of $708m in the year to March 2019.

Competitors

See Information Technology Sector and Consumer Electronics Sector for other companies

Brands & Activities

Although its global position came under pressure from competitors, Lenovo has consistently remained the best-selling PC brand in China, a position it has held since 1997, and in the whole Asia-Pacific region excluding Japan since 1999. However the global slump across the PC sector after 2011 allowed the company to steadily climb the rankings, from #3 in 2011 to #2 in 2012 and finally the global #1 for 2013. It was the only one of the major manufacturers to register an increase that year. The market has declined significantly since then in volumes, but Lenovo retained the global #1 position until 2017, when a resurgent HP took back the lead. For the whole of 2017, IDC estimated market share for Lenovo of 21.1%, behind HP at 22.7%. Inevitably, the bedrock of Lenovo's strength is Asia where it is the dominat manufacturer by far with around 30% share, as much as the next three companies combined. It is also a strong #2 behind HP in the EMEA region.

Lenovo manufactures a wide range of desktop and laptop computers, servers and peripherals, as well as digital entertainment products for the Chinese market. The group markets computers in the West under IBM's old ThinkPad and ThinkCentre brands, and also offers IT consultancy and services through a partnership with IBM. Although it originally negotiated a license to continue using the IBM name on its machines until 2008, it dropped that brand two years early in 2006. Outside Asia, Lenovo's computers have until recently been mainly targeted towards corporate users, continuing a tradition inherited from IBM. The group introduced its first consumer-oriented desktops and laptops in 2008 under the IdeaCentre and IdeaPad brands, but sales were less spectacular than hoped. However, it signed up in 2011 to become one of the main global partners for Intel's Ultrabook concept and launched these with a big global marketing push in 2012, designed to attract consumer buyers.

To strengthen its position in the Asia Pacific region further, Lenovo agreed to pool its operations in Japan with those of local market-leader NEC. It took a 51% stake and management control of the merged business, which continues to sell computers under the twin Lenovo and NEC brands. NEC is Japan's #1 PC brand. Combined share is just under 21%. In 2011, the group strengthened its presence in Europe's largest PC market, Germany, with the acquisition of local electronics group Medion. The following year, the group acquired Brazilian PC manufacturer CCE to become the local #3 behind market leader Positivo and second-placed HP.

In 2014, the group boosted its portfolio with the acquisition of another part of IBM's remaining hardware business, the lower spec System X range of servers, for $2.3bn. That deal completed in October 2014. Lenovo now ranks as the #5 server manufacturer globally behind HPE, Dell, IBM and Cisco.

PCs contributed revenues of $30.08bn in ye 2017, and data center products, including servers, for an additional $4.07bn.

Until the beginning of 2008, Lenovo also marketed mobile phone handsets in China, but exited this segment after failing to reduce the lead held by imported brands. It sold the business to private investors for $100m, only to buy it back 18 months later for $200m, citing a general recovery in the business. It relaunched Lenovo-branded mobile phones, including the LePhone, in China in 2010. It launched its devices in India, Russia and Indonesia during 2012, and announced plans to enter the US and Europe by mid 2014. Current top of the range model is the Lenovo Vibe.

In early 2014, the group agreed to acquire fading US manufacturer Motorola from Google for $2.9bn. The deal, which excludes a large collection of patents retained by Google, completed in Nov 2014. It remains the biggest smartphone marketer in China, but the combined business faces stiff competition from low-cost rivals Xiaomi and Huawei. In an attempt to out-manouevre these competitors, Lenovo launched its own low-cost satellite unit in 2015 under the ZUK brand name, selling budget devices via online only. For full year 2015, IDC estimated Lenovo/Motorola's global smartphone market share at 5.2%, placing it #4 worldwide behind Samsung, Apple and Xiaomi. However a dramatic shift in local consumer trends in China in early 2016 towards lower-priced handsets bought direct from manufacturers caused sales of Lenovo's devices to plummet. It fell out of the global top five for 1Q 2016. (See latest figures here). Towards the end of 2016, Lenovo said it will stop selling smartphones under its own name altogether, with all devices branded as Moto. However, the group's smartphone division remains under intense pressure, especially in China, although it enjoys a very strong presence in Brazil, where it is the local #2 in smartphones behind Samsung. Global market share was around 3.5% for the year, putting it among the Top Ten still. Mobile devices contributed revenues of $7.71bn in ye 2017.

The Lenovo group has no formal headquarters, and senior executives hold management meetings in a different location each month, although the administrative HQ is still in Beijing. Software development is centred in IBM Personal Computing's old base in Raleigh, North Carolina. Marketing and many back office functions are managed from Bangalore, India

Lenovo has been a lead sponsor of the Olympics since 2005, and is the official PC partner of the US National Basketball Association and, since 2009, of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team. The state-owned Chinese Academy of Sciences remains the company's biggest single shareholder through parent company Legend Holdings which it also controls. Legend Holdings has 42% of Lenovo, and most of the remaining shares are publicly held.

Financials

Lenovo's global revenues peaked in the year to March 2015 at $46.3bn, but have been slipping steadily since then as a result of the resurgence of HP and the fiercely competitive global market. For the year to March 2017, revenues fell 4% year-on-year to $43.04bn, the lowest level since 2014. After a difficult year in 2016 - in which the group posted a net attributable loss of $128m - Lenovo was back in the black at $535m. However, that figure was well below past highs. The Americas accounted for 30% of revenues, Greater China for 27% of revenues with another 16% from other other Asia Pacific markets, and the EMEA for 26%. PCs accounted for 72% of revenues and mobile devices for 20%.

For the year to Mar 2019, revenues were $51.04bn, up 13% year-on-year, with net income of $657m.

Background

The company was founded in 1984 as Legend Computer Group under chief executive Liu Chuanzhi to develop a hardware card which could be plugged into imported computers to translate operating software written in English into Chinese characters. After several years of acting as an agent for Western manufacturers, Legend began to manufacture its own computers in 1990, and quickly established a retail network in major cities. In 1994, the business floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange, introducing its first servers in 1995 and first laptops the year after. By the end of the decade it had become the leading PC manufacturer in the Asia Pacific region, and further extended its lead with the launch of low-cost machines targeting a rural or entry-level market.

Setting its sights on a wider market, Legend changed its name to the more distinctive Lenovo in 2003, and a year later established a global footprint with the purchase of the personal computing division of IT giant IBM for $1.75bn. That deal was delayed temporarily after American lawmakers voiced concerns over potential security risks arising from the transfer of potentially sensitive US technology to a Chinese company. Eventually, Lenovo was granted permission to go ahead with its purchase, and the deal completed in 2005. In summer 2007, Lenovo was reported to have entered exclusive talks to acquire European PC manufacturer Packard Bell, but that prize was later seized by Acer.

Following the IBM takeover, Bill Amelio, formerly head of Dell's Asia Pacific business, was appointed as group president & CEO of Lenovo in 2005. However, he was ousted in early 2009 after the group's disappointing performance in 2008.

Last full revision 23rd January 2018

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