The Asian PC market, which slumped badly last year due to economic and political turmoil, may be set for a rebound. The strongest indicator was preliminary data released by International Data Corp (IDC) last month which showed that shipments of PCs in the fourth quarter of last year rose 7 per cent over the fourth quarter of 1997. For all of last year, 10.47 million PCs were shipped, compared to 10.54 million in 1997, a drop of 0.6 per cent. IDC predicts PC demand will rise this year, with growth in shipments expected at 14 per cent. 'With the fourth-quarter results, there is reason for guarded optimism looking towards 1999,' Kitty Fok, research manager at IDC Asia/ Pacific, said. The worst-hit markets last year were Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, and Malaysia, where shipments fell 81 per cent, 40 per cent, 31 per cent, and 26 per cent respectively. All of these countries, except for Thailand, as well as Singapore and Hong Kong, registered drops in shipments in every quarter last year, compared with the same period of 1997, according to IDC. Many are expected to remain in the doldrums or see only weak recoveries this year. By contrast, China, India, Australia, Taiwan and New Zealand remained positive throughout last year, as sales continued to grow. Sales in India grew the fastest, at a 31.5 per cent rate, which IDC credited in part to Intel's support of small PC assemblers and local brands. The mainland registered the highest PC shipments overall, with 3.29 million PCs shipped. IDC says Asian market growth this year will depend on good sales in the mainland, India, and Australia. Compaq Computer remained the PC seller in the region, with 891,000 PCs shipped, although overall shipments fell 8.5 per cent from 1997. IBM ranked second, while Legend Computer, buoyed by market-leading status in the mainland, grew 73.4 per cent last year and claimed third place. A 17.1 per cent rise in sales pushed Hewlett-Packard to fourth place, while Acer's sales fell 19.3 per cent, dropping it to fifth. PC shipments by Dell Computer also grew fast, at a 45.9 per cent rate for 1998, while Apple Computer's sales rose in the second half of the year due to the iMac's success.