Hong Kong media magnate acquires 2 per cent of HTC: Report

Hong Kong media magnate acquires 2 per cent of HTC: Report

TAIPEI - A Hong Kong-based media magnate has reportedly acquired a 2-per cent stake in HTC, a beleaguered Taiwanese handset maker whose share price has tumbled over 50 per cent this year.

Jimmy Lai (黎智英), founder and chairman of NextMedia (壹傳媒) group, acquired about a 2-per cent stake in HTC through the open market, according to a statement by a NextMedia spokesperson which appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Based on claims of a 2-per cent stake, reports suggest that Lai spent about NT$2.3-NT$2.4 billion (S$97 million) to buy 17 million shares in HTC.

According to reports, Lai is an active investor in the Taiwanese market; however, whether he will be among the backers of HTC's management or join the ranks of investors urging for the company's sale to deep-pocketed players in the field remains to be seen, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The market is rife with rumours that HTC may meet the same fate as Nokia, a struggling former leader of the sector which was recently acquired by Microsoft.

Industry commentators have since stated that Lai's move may be a gesture indicating confidence in HTC's troubled management, which recently saw some reshuffling after company Chairwoman Cher Wang announced that she had instructed CEO Peter Chou to step back from some of his executive duties to focus on product development last month. Once the darling of handset makers, HTC recorded its first loss in the third quarter of this year, while its share price has dived by 85 per cent since April 2011. Reports suggest that Chou's abrasive management style and lack of vision was the primary cause of the company's woes.

Shares of HTC yesterday closed at NT$144, losing NT$0.5, or 0.35 per cent, with trading volume exceeding 18 million shares.

An investor of great acumen, Lai rose to his position as a media magnate from humble beginnings. In addition to his media empire, Lai founded Giordano International, an apparel retailer, and is known to be a shrewd investor in housing markets throughout the Greater China region.

Meanwhile, "-star," a consortium backed by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Sony and Ericsson yesterday named HTC in a patent infringement lawsuit in a US court. -star, along with Netstar Technologies, is also suing Google, Samsung and Huawei for infringing upon its newly acquired portfolio of Nortel patents.

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