For the second quarter since it went public, HTC posted an operating loss, generated by lackluster sales in what’s generally the hottest quarter of the year. Q4 2013 was the ninth consecutive quarter of declining sales for the company that was the darling of the mobile industry just a few years ago.
HTC announced an operating loss of $52 million, smaller than the operating loss of last quarter – $117 million – and slightly better than the consensus of analysts interviewed by Bloomberg. Revenue was $1.43 billion, compared with $1.57 billion in the previous three-month period. Falling revenues mean that HTC’s latest efforts to stop its abrupt slide have had little effect – in the last quarter of 2013, HTC launched the One Max phablet to tepid responses from the public and critics, as well as a series of mid-range devices destined for the Asian market. A marketing campaign centered around Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr has failed to excite buyers, in the context of strong competition from high-profile devices launched in fall, such as the LG G2, the Nexus 5, or the Xperia Z1.
The silver lining of Q4 2013 is the small net income of roughly $10 million that HTC was able to post thanks to a one-off payment of $85 million that the company received for its remaining stake in Beats. HTC announced on September 27 it would sell back its remaining 25 percent holding in Beats, after acquiring a 50 percent stake in 2011. Thanks to this money, HTC was able to end 2014 in the black, even though the profit was smaller than analysts have anticipated. However, the core business is still bleeding, and because the successor to the One flagship will probably only ship in Q2 2014, next quarter shapes us to be even worse.