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HTC looking at full sale, creating a VR subsidiary: sources


A man uses virtual reality equipment from Taiwanese manufacturer HTC at an exhibition in an undated picture.

Photo: Bloomberg’s

HTC Corp (宏達電), the beleaguered manufacturer that once ranked among the world’s top smartphone makers, is exploring options that could range from separating its virtual-reality (VR) business to a full sale of the company, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Taiwanese firm is working with an adviser as it considers bringing in a strategic investor, selling its Vive VR headset business or spinning off the unit, the people said.

HTC has held talks with companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

A full sale of HTC, which has businesses ranging from VR to handset manufacturing, is less likely, because it is not an obvious fit for a single buyer, one of the people said.

Shares of HTC yesterday rose 4.7 percent in Taipei to their highest close in more that two weeks, giving the company a market value of US$1.9 billion.

The company has shed about 75 percent of its value over the past five years as its smartphone market share dipped to less than 2 percent.

No final decisions have been made and HTC might choose not to proceed with any strategic changes, the people said.

HTC dismissed the report as speculation, while Google declined to comment.

“The company has no comment on market rumors and speculations,” HTC said in a statement.

The Taoyuan-based firm has been attempting to refocus its growth prospects on the high-end VR business, with shipments of the Vive headset totaling more than 190,000 units in the first quarter of this year, research firm International Data Corp (IDC) said.

HTC earlier this week cut the price of the Vive by US$200 in an effort to boost sales and expand its user base.

The company is also trying to revive its smartphone unit with its latest flagship U11 model and a contract manufacturing deal to assemble Google’s Pixel handset.

“It’s a cutthroat Android smartphone market out there,” IDC research manager for wearables and mobile phones Ramon Llamas said in an interview. “Apple [Inc] and Samsung [Electronics Co Ltd] have made it hard for HTC to stay at the top of the market, and Chinese phone makers have made it hard for HTC to dominate the middle and low end of the market.”

A transaction with a Silicon Valley firm like Google would mark a face-saving moment for Cher Wang (王雪紅), HTC’s cofounder and largest shareholder, who took over as CEO of the manufacturer in 2015. Wang has been unable to stem the losses in market share since returning to the company in a full-time capacity.

The daughter of a petrochemical billionaire, Wang was Taiwan’s richest woman until HTC’s stock tanked.

HTC, founded in 1997, began as a contract manufacturer. In 2002, it won a deal with Microsoft Corp to make Windows-based smartphones and quickly became one of the top producers globally. It also made the first Android phone in 2008.

Vive is a “different beast” from Facebook Inc’s Oculus VR and Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC’s PlayStation VR, Llamas said.

“I am not seeing other companies really making that play, competing in that same area,” he said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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