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China's Legend gets new name

The consumer electronics company introduces replacement brand name Lenovo, in a move executives say is "laying the groundwork" for international expansion.

Looking to spruce up its image overseas, China-based Legend Group has replaced the 20-year-old brand name and logo found on its products.

The consumer electronics company unveiled the English brand name Lenovo to take the place of its current Legend moniker for its products, in a move that it described as "laying the groundwork" for international expansion.

For business in China, Legend will continue to use its "Lian Xiang" Chinese brand name in Chinese characters, together with Lenovo in Western script.

"For overseas markets, Lenovo will be used alone," the company said. While Legend is well recognized in China for its desktops, notebooks, mobile phones and handhelds, its name is virtually unknown outside the country.

"On our way to becoming internationalized, we need to have an English brand name that can be used unrestrictedly in markets worldwide," said Yang Yuanqing, Legend's chief executive officer. "However, the original English name--Legend--has been registered by others in many countries."

The company's name will remain Legend Holdings.

While the new brand name will provide an opportunity for the company to start on fresh footing overseas, some feel that it comes at the sacrifice of two decades of brand-building.

"It is a shame they can't use the Legend name overseas, as it carries a lot of weight and brand equity," said Bryan Ma, a senior manager with market research firm IDC.

Yang said Legend also plans to sink $121 million (1 billion yuan) into the research and development of new products, but did not mention what the new products will be.

Legend Chief Financial Officer Mary Ma said she hopes to quadruple overseas sales to 20 percent of annual revenue in five years, from less than 5 percent today.

While the growth targets have been set, plans for international expansion are far less concrete.

"Legend has not been very clear about the markets they are going after, whether it is the U.S., Canada or Western Europe," said IDC's Ma. "If they are going into the U.S., a key challenge would be to establish relationships with corporate customers, something which global PC giants have already done."

Legend said it hopes to finish the renaming exercise in six months. All products except PC motherboards will bear the revamped logo.

According to IDC, Legend has retained its position as the leading desktop and notebook vendor in the Asia-Pacific region. Though it sells mainly in China, the PC behemoth commanded a 13.2 percent market share in the Asia-Pacific region in the last quarter of 2002, thanks to the huge domestic market, where Legend is ahead of global heavyweights Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell Computer, which held an 8.7 percent, 6.3 percent and 5.8 percent market share, respectively.

CNETAsia's Winston Chai reported from Singapore.