HTC shares will halt trading amid rumors of a takeover by Google

HTC phone
HTC has seen its worldwide market share erode in the last several years.

HTC’s shares will reportedly halt trading tomorrow in advance of a “major announcement” regarding the future of its smartphone business—a future that might involve a takeover by Google.

Bloomberg columnist Tim Culpan, who’s based in Taipei, was one of the first to report the news, and the Taiwan Stock Exchange confirmed it in a brief statement.

“TWSE announced trading in the shares of HTC Corporation and the securities underlying the company will be halted starting from September 21, 2017, pending the release of material information,” the exchange said.

HTC said it doesn’t comment “on market rumor or speculation.”

HTC built the first Android-based phone, the G1, nearly 10 years ago, and it built on that momentum in the early years of Google’s platform as it expanded into software and services. But the company has seen its worldwide market share wane in recent years as Samsung and Apple dominated the high end of the market, while several Chinese vendors have gained ground in the budget market with less expensive handsets.

HTC slashed handset prices in April in an effort to boost flagging sales, and earlier this year it streamlined its device lineup, dropping entry-level, low-margin phones in favor of mid-range and high-end devices.

Meanwhile, an acquisition by Google would mark the search giant’s return to a market which has struggled. Google sold its Motorola Mobile division to China’s Lenovo for $2.91 billion in early 2014, less than three years after it paid $12.4 billion for the company. (Google did retain the “vast majority” of patents it picked up in the deal, however.)

Google may have a renewed interest in joining the smartphone market, however. Its Pixel has been well-received despite a deal that gives Verizon exclusive rights to sell the phone in the United States, and it is preparing to bring a second-generation model of the phone to market in the coming weeks to compete against Samsung and Apple.

The company may once again be enticed by the prospect of developing devices as its Android platform continues to evolve. If it truly does acquire HTC, though—and that move is far from certain—the question will be whether it learned much from its ill-conceived takeover of Motorola.

“If true (and it seems likely) this is a bold move by Google given the disastrous Motorola acquisition,” Ben Wood of CCS Insight tweeted. “What’s changed is the big question?”