Olivetti is selling its PC group to Piedmont International, a recently formed Luxembourg investment company. The sale will be worth up to a quarter of a billion Australian dollars. Olivetti intends to buy around 10 per cent of the issued share capital of Piedmont upon completion of the deal.
Piedmont will lease Olivetti's PC factory at Scarmagno in northwest Italy for four years and will use the Olivetti name on PC products. The international distribution and marketing operations will be based in Holland.
Some industry observers believe there may be an Asian connection in the purchase. Olivetti's manufacturing facilities could assemble at least a million Asian-sourced PCs a year in Europe, while many of the Olivetti-branded machines could be assembled in Taiwan or China.
Olivetti PCs, mainly the Asian-made notebooks, are distributed in Australia by JTC International of Perth. JTC managing director Paul Johnson said he expects 100 per cent continuity of business. "The notebooks sell well in Australia, especially as they offer excellent specs with a much lower price than the other big brands". He added that the entire Olivetti product line would be updated in the middle of the year.
Olivetti itself has announced preliminary results for the year, ended December 31, that show pre-tax losses of 800 billion lire ($US494.7 million). Sales across all product lines were down 16 per cent to 8.27 trillion lire. A statement attributed a quarter of the losses to the company's mobile phone subsidiary, Omnitel.
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