The long-awaited acquisition of AST by Samsung has moved a step closer with the Korean firm?s announcement that it wants to buy AST?s remaining shares.
Samsung already owns 49.9 per cent of the US PC vendor and has pumped almost $1 billion into it in loans. The offer from Samsung is being reviewed by a panel of three independent AST directors who will have to approve the move before it can go ahead.
For AST shareholders, the offer represents a share price of $5.10. In 1991, AST shares were priced at $47, the decline in price reflecting the company?s failing financial health.
AST UK general manager Graham Hopper was in buoyant mood when discussing the Samsung offer. ?This is the logical culmination of what?s been going on for the past couple of years,? he said.
?In my view, this now removes any remaining question marks about the future of AST. This is a major psychological boost and maps out a positive future for the whole company.?
His optimism has been matched by many in the channel, with one AST reseller saying: ?It doesn?t surprise me. I think Samsung realised they have got to step in and make sure things get no worse.?
Bruce Stephen, PC analyst at IDC, said that the future might not be so bright for the existing AST setup. ?The biggest challenge for Samsung is to sort out the marketing and sales strategy and to create a strong brand.?
Hopper was unimpressed by this comment. ?The strongest thing within AST is the sales and marketing channel. I think Samsung knows how strong this is as they?ve left that side of things well alone,? he said.
John Klinker, Northern Europe manager for Texas Instruments, recently bought up by Acer, said AST?s new owners will have to implement radical changes. ?They will have to slim down and maybe even lose one of their channels, possibly corporate, leaving them with retail. When a company continues to lose the sort of money they have, something has to change.?
For the fourth quarter of 1996, AST recorded a loss of $68 million. Turnover for the period stood at $611.4 million, down slightly on $612.9 for the same period last year.
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