HTC chief offloads duties in bid to stem financial downturn

To stem the company's decline, HTC's chief executive is offloading some of his responsibilities to the company's chairwoman. Described as a "temporary" move, it comes just months after former executives described his succession stubbornness.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
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Image: CNET

HTC may still be dubbing itself as "quietly brilliant," but many analysts and industry watchers are wondering if the firm isn't in fact publicly sinking.

In an interview with London's Financial Times (paywalled), HTC's chief executive Peter Chou confirmed he has offloaded some of his day-to-day operational responsibilities to the company's chairwoman and co-founder, Cher Wang. 

According to the interview, Chou was "too busy" focused on innovation and the product lineup. Meanwhile, Wang has increased her scope at the company to include sales, marketing, and engaging with supplier relationships as the company attempts to stave off full-blown financial collapse.

In August, former insiders who spoke to the Reuters news agency blamed Chou for his leadership and "shoot-from-the-hip" decision-making. According to one report, he sketched a few designed on a whiteboard, with an included price point and a launch date — just three months later — but didn't account for the time needed for third-party manufacturers to build the device, or garner the marketing needed to advertise the device.

Since then, many executives have left the company, at least half-a-dozen executives have left the smartphone maker over the past two years, including its chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

The latest person to leave is HTC's former public relations chief Lorian Wong, who reportedly left the Taiwanese phone maker for personal reasons, just four months after she was brought into the role.

Founded in 1997, the company rose to prominence during the mid-to-late 2000s, but began to suffer financially not long after the 2008 global economic crisis subsided in the new decade. 

Just as others were pushed out of the smartphone market, notably BlackBerry and Nokia, whose futures remain uncertain after a prospective and successful sell-off respectively, HTC has also dwindled in its former strong position in market share rankings.

Now, HTC has just 2.6 percent of the global smartphone share, down from more than 11 percent in 2011. Its share price has also plummeted by more than half year-to-date.

The company saw a 70 percent fall in net profit during its 2012 first quarter. Its revenue has fallen by shy of 35 percent compared to the same period a year ago, with the company still reeling from a painful January where revenues fell by almost 50 percent. 

HTC in April suffered a massive profit plunge in April following the delayed flagship HTC One, and again in August

There is a glimmer of light in the back of the company's eyes, however, as numerous reports point to HTC making a comeback into the mainstream smartphone market by teaming up with Amazon, which is reportedly looking to enter the highly-competitive space.

Amazon, earlier this year, and in a rare public reaction, refuted earlier claims it would release a smartphone this year. But numerous reports from The Wall Street Journal and others, including the Financial Times, suggested a device was almost certainly on deck.

However, if Amazon, which has carved out a significant market share in the tablet space with its Kindle range of tablets — despite the razor-thin margins and low profits — doesn't believe it can garner the same level of attention, it may bail on its development efforts to date, according to reports. 

“We are open minded to those kinds of opportunities always but we can't specifically talk about any particular one," according to Chou in another interview posted Sunday by the Financial Times (paywalled), without budging any further on comment.

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