PRINTER maker Lexmark has signed a deal with distribution firm Legend as part of a push to increase its market share in Hong Kong. According to Lexmark Hong Kong and China general manager Norbert Kiss, the deal with Legend is only the first part of a regional Lexmark expansion programme. 'It was clearly identified last year that Hong Kong and China offer a lot of opportunity and we wanted to emulate the kind of successes we've had in other parts of the world,' Mr Kiss said. While Lexmark may be one of the bigger printer manufacturers worldwide, its market presence in Asia is rather small, with its market share in Hong Kong totallying only about two or three per cent. But worldwide Lexmark claims between 10 and 20 per cent of the market in the United States, Europe and Australia. The Legend agreement is designed to provide a 'quick start' to Lexmark's Hong Kong sales. The sole distribution agreement will focus on network printing products, although Legend will carry Lexmark's entire product line. 'We plan to exploit this as much as we can,' Mr Kiss said. 'Network products are our strength. Legend offers a good balance of sales, support, technical expertise and commitment to products they offer.' Before the agreement, Lexmark's products were sold through numerous smaller dealers. Lexmark added direct marketing support. Lexmark plans to continue direct marketing in the territory, but all sales will be made through Legend. The Legend agreement is part of a larger Year 2000 plan at Lexmark for the Asia-Pacific. 'We want to get to 10 per cent [market share] in the next 24 months in Hong Kong,' Mr Kiss said, adding that reaching that level of market penetration in China would take longer. 'The concept of distribution in China is completely different than in the rest of the world.' For now, Mr Kiss said Lexmark was focusing on getting results from the Legend agreement. The company will begin shipping printers next week. At the same time, Lexmark is looking for partners in China. While it was possible that Legend will enter into a partnership in China, Mr Kiss said there could be opportunities for multiple partnerships. 'China offers us the opportunity to segment much more than Hong Kong does,' he said. 'I've spoken now with 10 different possible partners in China and we're trying to get the same marriage we have with Legend in Hong Kong.' According to Mr Kiss, Lexmark was banking on the breadth of its product line from ink jet to laser and from personal printers to network workhorses in order to achieve growth objectives. At the same time, Mr Kiss said that because Lexmark owned its own printer technology, it had been able to bring products to market more quickly. 'Our laser and ink jet engines are our own technology,' Mr Kiss said. 'We can get to market with products quickly since we own the technology. Without our own technology we would have been limited in the technology we could have achieved.' As part of its growth plans for China, Mr Kiss said Lexmark would be announcing a manufacturing plan for low-end laser products in the mainland.