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AST Research to Roll Out New Computer Line : Technology: The consumer-oriented multimedia PCs are competitively priced but late to the marketplace.

October 18, 1994|HOPE HAMASHIGE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRVINE — AST Research Inc. plans to roll out its new line of consumer-oriented computers today, according to company officials.

The three new models are all multimedia PCs equipped with the latest computer gadgetry, including CD-ROM drives, fax modems and comprehensive communications centers that include voice mail and call forwarding.

The company said the initial response from retailers has been warm to its new Advantage line, priced competitively from $1,399 to $2,599, but analysts warn that the announcement should not be taken as a sign that all is well with the computer manufacturer, which announced Friday that it is closing its factory in Fountain Valley, reducing its work force by 10% worldwide and expecting a quarterly loss of about $40 million.

Irvine-based AST is late coming to market with these Advantage models and has already been outpaced by competitors Compaq, IBM and Packard Bell, which earlier introduced similar machines. The company has also been plagued by a host of shareholder lawsuits and rumors of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The fact that they are behind the competition should not be underplayed, said Stephen Dube, an analyst with Wasserstein Perella Securities in New York. "They will not recover until they can get a great line out and get it out before everyone else."

This is a particularly crucial time for AST, added Gerald Fleming, an analyst with Sutro & Co., an investment bank in San Francisco. To break even in the next quarter, AST must have strong sales and cannot afford to continue suffering any of the manufacturing problems that would put them further behind schedule.

"If they screw up again they are in deep trouble," said Fleming. "You can announce that there are new products going out but you have to be able to sell them and AST is losing space on retailers shelves because of what has happened."

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