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Boxes of Dell computers roll off the assemby line in Round Rock, Tex.


Dell Inc. forecast fiscal first-quarter revenue below Wall Street's expectations, stoking fears the PC industry has not fully emerged from its downturn and sending the company's shares more than 4 per cent lower.

The world's No. 3 personal computer maker projected sales would be down 7 per cent this quarter from the previous quarter, when it posted revenue of $16-billion (U.S.). That translates into about $14.9-billion, below the average forecast for roughly $15.2-billion.

Dell's fiscal fourth quarter earnings also came in below Wall Street's view as strength in its corporate business unit was offset by weakness in the division that caters to public businesses.

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Investors were disappointed by the "lack of the upside in the quarter as well," ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall said. "It's going to take a little bit of time for Dell to turn around the tanker ship."

"They have $65-billion revenue and it takes a long time to move the needle to more strategically relevant revenue sources and we are just not seeing signs of progress yet," he said.

PC makers have grappled with slackening demand as mobile devices such as Apple Inc.'s iPad erode market share, while a shortage of hard drives after flooding in Thailand crimped supply.

Revenue in Dell's fiscal fourth quarter was up 2 per cent at $16-billion, in line with the average analyst estimate of $15.96-billion according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company posted a net income slide of 18 per cent to $764-million, or 43 cents a share, for the period, down from $927-million, or 48 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, it earned 51 cents a share, a penny below the 52 cents expected.

For fiscal 2013, the company said it expects non-GAAP earnings per share to exceed $2.13.

Dell's large-enterprise business held up well, increasing sales 5 per cent in the quarter to $4.9-billion, as corporations continued to upgrade aging hardware.

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Chief financial officer Brian Gladden told Reuters that he expects business spending in Dell's enterprise unit to continue to be strong this quarter.

Dell's public business generated revenue of $3.9-billion, which was down 1 per cent from a year ago due to weakness in the United States and Western Europe while Dell's sales to consumers fell 2 per cent over the same period.

Dell's gross margin rose to 21.1 per cent from 20 per cent a year earlier.

The shares of Dell, which vies with market-leading Hewlett Packard Co., slid to $17.34 in extended trading after closing on Nasdaq at $18.21.

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