AST shrinks Hong Kong's regional role

AST shrinks Hong Kong's regional role

AST Research, the once high-flying PC supplier that's now struggling just to stay aloft, has quietly clipped the wings of its Hong Kong operation, ending its status as the company's Asia-Pacific regional headquarters.

The unannounced move came last month, as AST, now a subsidiary of Korea's Samsung Electronics, implemented a series of belt-tightening measures aimed at enabling the company to offer more competitive pricing.

The scale-back, described by insiders as a "sensitive" issue, followed the integration of AST's Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand operations with the Samsung operations in Singapore and Australia, respectively.

"The Hong Kong regional headquarters function no longer exists. We had to have some redundancies because some of the staff were supporting the regional operations," said Daniel Wong, AST's Hong Kong-based North Asia general manager.

The Hong Kong office will retain some regional responsibilities, however. Purchase orders from throughout the Asia-Pacific region will still be routed through Hong Kong, due to its proximity to AST's manufacturing facility in Dongguan, China.

According to Wong, AST's regional plans are in flux due to constant changes in the economic outlook stemming from the Asian currency crisis. "Corporate believes that the Asian crisis may not be over yet, so they should take a more cautious approach rather than ending up too aggressive," Wong said. The situation has forced the company to shift from semi-annual reviews of its planning to "almost monthly" reviews, he says.

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