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Ingram Micro's Sales Soar 41%, Top $2 Billion : Computers: 1991's results at privately held Santa Ana subsidiary of Nashville firm defy national PC decline.


SANTA ANA — In the face of the worst sales decline for personal computers in a decade, computer wholesaler Ingram Micro said Tuesday that its sales jumped 41% in 1991, topping $2 billion for the first time.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 27, the company reported sales of $611 million, up 38% from a year earlier. Ingram Micro--a privately held subsidiary of Ingram Industries, based in Nashville, Tenn.--does not report net income.

Linwood A. (Chip) Lacy said industry trends are making selling computers and software through distributors more attractive to manufacturers, giving Ingram Micro's markets a boost.

Worldwide computer sales fell 8% during 1991, the worst decline in a decade, according to market researcher Dataquest Inc. in San Jose.

By selling products through wholesale distributors, manufacturers can cut costs by reducing direct-sales forces and the expense of supporting authorized dealer networks. Increasingly, manufacturers are selling products through mass merchandisers, computer super-store chains and small shops that customize products for specific markets.

Distributors such as Ingram Micro, which buy and sell high volumes of products, serve these fast-growing markets.

Lacy said Ingram Micro's strongest growth came in its international markets, where sales grew 96% during the year. In April, Ingram Micro acquired a British distribution company for an undisclosed sum as part of an expansion into Europe.

In the recessionary U.S. market, Ingram Micro's sales grew 36% for the fourth quarter and 32% for the year. Sales of software and computer accessories helped boost overall sales during the recession, Lacy said.

Robert Anastasi, an analyst for the Atlanta investment firm Robinson Humphrey Co., said Ingram Micro has about 27% of the U.S. computer distribution market, up from 25% a year earlier.

Merisel Inc., a Torrance distributor, has about 22% of the market, he said.

Anastasi said that the personal computer distribution industry is growing and that Ingram Micro, the industry's largest player, is becoming increasingly profitable.

"We had a very good year, and we're pleased with it," Lacy said. "We continue to see pressure on our gross margins."

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