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Ingram CEO says worst could be over

Paul Kunert

Ingram Micro reckons the IT market has flattened out and will not deteriorate further in 2009 but despite a flurry of activity in March that signalled a welcome revival, the real recovery is not expected to take place until next year.

The world's largest distributor said weak demand during its first calendar quarter forced sales down 21% to $6.75bn (£4.56bn), while a failure to reduce expenses in line with market conditions saw profits tumble 57% to $27.5m (£18.5m).

"January and February were weak for many companies including ours," said Ingram boss Greg Spierkel, "technology users were admittedly cautious, waiting for greater confidence before ramping up their spending levels."

During the period, EMEA witnessed the highest drop in revenues of 26% to $2.27bn, while sales in North America fell 21% to $2.77bn. Asia Pacific and Latin America saw their top lines fall 24% and 21% respectively to $1.38bn and $321m.

The UK and Germany were leading growth in the region and Ingram said it was using its financial muscle - finishing the quarter with a record $1bn cash balance - to help overcome credit issues in the SME channel and win business from resellers.

Several factors could hinder growth this year and the economy will remain soft until the housing market improves, unemployment rebounds and economic stimulus takes hold said Ingram.

"We don't expect a pick up in sales for several more months, perhaps for the remainder of the year. While the relative strength of March compared to the other two months gave a sense of optimism, we are not prepared to declare a substantial upswing," said Spierkel.

"The good news is that we don't feel the market is getting any worse at this stage," he added.

In 2008, Ingram made cost reductions that it said would result in $20m annualised costs savings, these included a 1,100 to 1,200 cut in the global workforce. It expects up to $120m in additional savings this year, in line with plans announced in January.

Others in the industry including Intel, EMC, Samsung and Avnet have recently claimed the market freefall has hit rock bottom.

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