Google phone helps HTC post solid Q4, new products coming

The fourth quarter launch of T-Mobile's G1, the first smartphone to use Google's Android OS, helped the handset's maker nearly meet its earnings targets despite a sharp global economic downturn.

High Tech Computer (HTC), the Taiwanese smartphone maker, reported its net profit fell just over 1 percent year-on-year to NT$9.86 billion (US$293.1 million) as sales increased 21 percent to NT$47.4 billion.

The revenue figure nearly met HTC's target of NT$48 billion, falling short because consumers reined in spending amid fears of further layoffs and other economic turbulence. HTC warned that the first quarter will be even worse for smartphone makers.

"The global economy has weakened rapidly since the fourth quarter, resulting in low business visibility," the company said. HTC's customers are selling off inventory and delaying new smartphone orders from the company, which markets the HTC Touch series of handsets as well as the HTC Dream and other handsets.

But while the first quarter may be affected, HTC believes the release of new products will help its shipments rebound in the second quarter.

Buyers could get a glimpse of those at the Mobile World Congress, which runs from Feb. 16 to 19 in Barcelona, Spain.

"We have several new products to introduce in Barcelona," said Cheng Hui-ming, chief financial officer of the company, during a conference call.

Some analysts on the conference call asked if HTC will launch a second Google Android-based smartphone this year, but he declined to comment.

Several news reports say HTC plans to launch handsets or netbooks with Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips inside at Barcelona, but HTC has declined to comment on the reports.

Cheng said HTC's first quarter revenue will likely come in around NT$33 billion, a small increase from the NT$32.7 billion in revenue the company posted in the same period last year.

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