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Dell's Pain Means Gain for China's Lenovo

BEIJING -- During a sultry August in Beijing, local PC giant Lenovo was kicking the heat up even higher on a struggling Dell (DELL).

In less than a month, Lenovo has poached nearly half a dozen of Dell's key Asia executives -- a move likely to bolster its standing outside its home market and deal a setback to Dell.

The incoming Lenovo hires, all announced between Aug. 17 and Aug. 31, include:

  • David Miller, formerly president of Dell China, will become president of Asia Pacific for Lenovo.
  • Sotaro Amano, new president of Lenovo Japan, had been corporate director of Japan home and business sales for Dell.
  • Gerry Smith has been tapped as senior vice president of Lenovo's global supply chain; previously he ran Dell's design center and displays business unit in Singapore.
  • David Schmoock will lead a new Lenovo organization focused on supply/demand forecasting, pricing and sales strategies, leaving his old role as Dell's vice president of marketing for Asia-Pacific/Japan.
  • Christopher Askew has been named senior vice president of Lenovo Services, after serving as vice president of Dell's services unit in Asia-Pacific/Japan.

"It's a coup for Lenovo," says Victor Ma, a Hong Kong-based analyst for Morgan Stanley. "Given that [Lenovo CEO] Bill Amelio came from Dell, it's within expectations that he would take some of his troops to the new company. But the surprise is how many people have left, which is obviously symptomatic of the problems Dell's having."

Indeed, the defections come as Dell is struggling with a string of disappointing quarters and an embarrassing battery recall announced in August.

Meanwhile, Lenovo, which closed on its acquisition of IBM's (IBM) PC business in May 2005, seems to be gaining momentum.

The top-ranked China PC outfit, which last year moved its headquarters from Beijing to Westchester County, N.Y., beat Wall Street expectations in its fiscal first-quarter earnings report in August. It reversed the prior quarter's loss with a slim $5 million profit, including restructuring charges. Sales of $3.5 billion were up 38% over year-ago levels.

The string of staff defections from rival Dell stands to further boost Lenovo's morale.

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