Asustek says Eee PC sales target hit by battery shortage

A global shortage of laptop PC batteries has hurt Asustek Computer's sales of the Eee PC this year, but the troubles should abate by June, a top executive said Monday.

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A global shortage of laptop PC batteries has hurt Asustek Computer's sales of the Eee PC this year, but the troubles should abate by June, a top executive said Monday.

A fire at South Korea's LG Chem in March has crimped global supplies of lithium-ion batteries. Production at the affected factory is slated to begin again in a few months.

But the shortage has taken a toll on laptop PC makers, which complain the lack of batteries has hurt sales over the past few months.

Asustek believes that were it not for the battery shortage, its target for global Eee PC sales this year would be higher, said Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek, speaking at a news conference in Taipei.

He said Asustek will still reach its target of 5 million units by the end of this year, but could have upped the forecast were it not for the battery shortage. The company says it has already shipped a million Eee PCs since sales started late last year.

The shortage continues to affect production of the popular low-cost laptop, Shen said. In April and May, the supply problem will still impact Asustek, but by June, about 90 percent of the problem should be resolved, he said.

Asustek's Eee PC is a low-cost laptop originally designed for people in developing nations, particularly kids. The device, which can access the Internet wirelessly through built-in Wi-Fi or an add-on HSDPA card has gained popularity for its efficient design and low price.

The original Eee PCs went on sale for prices as low as NT$7000 (£116) for a stripped down version running a Linux OS late last year. The latest version, the Eee PC 900, has a larger 8.9-inch screen and other improvements, and launched in Taiwan Monday for NT$15,988 (£266). The original Eee PC 701 sports a 7-inch screen. Both devices weigh less than a kilogram.

Europe accounts for around 40 percent of global sales now, said Shen. He predicted that figure will grow to 50 percent later this year.