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Laptop battery shortage set to ease

But 2008 laptop sales will suffer

A global shortage of lithium-ion laptop PC batteries should clear up in the third quarter of 2008, a major battery maker said late last week. But the shortage will still affect laptop sales.

A fire at South Korea's LG Chem in March has crimped global supplies of lithium-ion batteries. The timing couldn't be worse. Demand for notebook computers is soaring this year as people turn to mobile computing and eschew desktops. Some companies, such as Asustek Computer, have already said the shortage will crimp their laptop PC shipments this year.?

?"I think maybe the battery shortage may hurt every brand," said JT Wang, chairman of Acer, at the company's investor conference two weeks ago.

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?But the head of the world's largest independent notebook battery maker, Simplo Technology, said he expects the lithium-ion supply to return to normal in the third quarter and allow battery makers to substantially increase production.?

?"The LG Chem problem has had a big impact on supplies, but we're working with customers and they understand," said Sung Fu-hsang, chairman of Simplo, at the company's first quarter investors' conference on Friday. ?

?LG Chem could not be reached for comment.?

?The timing for a rebound in battery shipments couldn't be better for the industry. The third quarter is when sales of laptop PCs pick up as kids go back to school, and is followed by the peak-holiday sales season.?

?For now though, the problems mean a struggle for some companies.?

?Asustek believes the battery shortage means lost sales of its popular Asus Eee PC low cost laptop this year. The company will reach its 5 million unit shipment target, but it could have increased the target were it not for the battery troubles, said Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek, at a news conference a few weeks ago.?

?Quanta Computer, the world's largest contract laptop PC manufacturer, predicts that smaller PC makers will be hurt worse by the battery supply problem because big companies are normally served first since they offer the most lucrative contracts.


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