(Reuters) - Global PC shipments declined 1.4 percent in the last quarter of 2011 mainly due to weak demand in Western Europe and the United States, according to research firm Gartner.
"After two quarters of positive growth, worldwide PC shipments totaled 92.2 million units in the fourth quarter," Gartner said on Wednesday.
PC shipments in Europe, Middle East and Africa totaled 28.9 million, a 9.6 percent decline compared with a year earlier while in the United States shipments dropped 5.9 percent where consumers looked to smart phones and media tablets instead of PCs.
Gartner said good growth in professional markets and emerging countries had not been able to compensate softness in mature markets.
"The big surprise was the U.S. We expected it to be flat," IDC analyst David Daoud said.
"That is the worst performance since the fourth quarter of 2008, which was post Lehman Brothers," he said, referring to the collapse of the investment bank.
Daoud blamed the development on floods in Thailand in October, which had triggered hard-disk drive shortages and weak consumer confidence.
Gartner, however, said that the shortages had so far had a limited impact on shipments and prices in the fourth quarter but that a major impact would be felt in the first half of 2012.
Among the vendors Hewlett Packard held on to its No. 1 position despite a shipment decline of 16.2 percent year over year, according to Gartner.
The decline was a result of confusion surrounding its PC business, Gartner said, adding that aggressive pricing from competitors combined with weak consumer PC demand in the holiday season had also taken a toll.
China's Lenovo Group showed the strongest quarterly growth with a 23 percent increase in shipments.
(Reporting By Nicola Leske in New York; Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston; Editing by Bernard Orr)