* Net profit at T$5.5 bln vs expected T$5.8 bln
* Firms seeks growth in data servers, cloud computing (Adds details on earnings and industry background)
By Michael Gold
March 28 (Reuters) - Taiwanese computer maker Quanta Computer Inc’s fourth-quarter profit was flat compared with a year earlier, missing expectations as persistently weak PC sales offset the company’s push into data servers and cloud computing.
Quanta, the world’s largest contract assembler of laptop PCs, booked a net profit of T$5.5 billion ($180 million) in the October-December period, unchanged from a year earlier. The profit was below analyst estimates of T$5.8 billion.
The company, which supplies laptops and servers for brands such as Apple Inc, Asustek Computer Inc and Facebook Inc, made a net profit of T$4.4 billion in the third quarter.
Analysts view the company’s push into data servers, which host information transmitted wirelessly to the cloud by a personal computing device like a smartphone, as one of its main growth drivers going forward. Servers sales from original design manufacturers like Quanta saw 45 percent year-on-year growth in the third quarter of 2013, according to research firm IDC.
IDC also predicts the worldwide PC market to continue its downward trajectory, contracting an estimated 6.1 percent in 2014, as mobile devices like tablets continue to eat away at the PC’s once-dominant position.
The world’s largest PC vendors have been scrambling to adapt. Last October Dell, once the world’s largest PC brand, went private in what many view as a clear sign of the PC’s decline, while in January Taiwan’s Acer Inc, the world’s fourth-largest PC vendor, reported a greater-than-expected quarterly loss. ($1 = 30.5315 Taiwan Dollars) (Reporting by Michael Gold; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)