Sunday, December 27, 2015

Seeking Alpha: Lenovo Looking To Have The Last Seat When The Music Stops

It's easy to dismiss Lenovo (OTCPK:LNVGY) right now. What sane management team would want to be in the PC business when shipments are declining at a double-digit rate? What sane management company would want to battle high-end smartphone champion Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and low-end dynamo Xaomi with the rusty blade that is Motorola at their side? Why would anybody think there's money to be made in a server business that IBM (NYSE:IBM) didn't want?

What I think many of the superficial analyses of Lenovo miss is that this is a company with a proven ability to squeeze blood from a stone and relentlessly drive costs lower. While PCs are likely never going to be a growth market again, I do think there's still an opportunity for Lenovo to gain share and take what growth is there. Likewise, I don't think Lenovo ever unseats Apple in smartphones, but I believe Lenovo's cost structure can allow it to be one of the last companies standing after the industry shakes out the weaker players. Finally, I think there's meaningful server growth opportunity in China and other emerging markets, and here too I believe Lenovo has an opportunity to benefit from stripping costs out of the IBM assets and running the business more cost-effectively.

I've decided to take a more negative view of Lenovo's revenue growth prospects, as the decline in PC shipments has been exceeding my expectations from a year ago and the smartphone market too has cooled more quickly than I expected. Nevertheless, even with a lower revenue growth rate, the opportunity to add around a point and a half to operating margin over time and a similar amount to FCF margin supports a fair value above $28.

Lenovo has to achieve its cost-reduction goals for the Motorola business on schedule to rebuild investor/analyst trust, but I believe Lenovo has seen the bottom in mobile and servers and will surprise with what it does over the next three to five years. More importantly, I think Lenovo has a cost structure and a cost philosophy that makes it a long-term survivor - as virtually every market eventually becomes a commodity market over time, cost leadership is ultimately what distinguishes the survivors and I believe Lenovo has the corporate DNA to be the last (or at least one of the last) players standing in PCs, x86 servers, and phones.

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Lenovo Looking To Have The Last Seat When The Music Stops

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