Consumers snapped up low-cost laptops and smaller netbooks over the holidays, pushing Dell's PC shipments up 29 percent. Those products are less lucrative, though, and Dell's revenue and profit in the consumer PC division grew much more slowly. Dell's profit margin was below expectations, and its shares fell more than 4 percent in after-hours trading.
Revenue from businesses, which makes up about half of Dell's total, grew 9 percent from last year. During a conference call, Dell's chief financial officer, Brian Gladden, said many corporations were buying servers, a trend that also appeared in recent reports from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Intel Corp. But he added that companies were also starting to buy new laptops, a sign that corporate spending on technology might be coming out of its recession-induced slump.
Dell did not provide guidance for the current first quarter, but Gladden said the company is cautiously optimistic that corporate demand for its products will continue.
For the three months ended Jan. 29, Dell said earnings slipped to $334 million, or 17 cents per share. That is down from $351 million, or 18 cents per share, a year ago.
The figures include Dell's acquisition of Perot Systems, a technology services company that has many customers in the public sector. Excluding the costs of the acquisition, Dell said it earned 28 cents per share.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had forecast earnings of 27 cents per share on the same basis.
Dell's revenue increased 11 percent to $14.9 billion. Analysts had been expecting $13.8 billion in revenue.
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