Google is apparently ready to buy smartphone maker HTC

Key Points
  • Google is reportedly in the final stages of acquiring all or part of HTC.
  • Smartphone maker HTC has struggled over recent quarters, and Google's putting new emphasis on hardware.
  • Google already acquired and sold Motorola Mobility, so why repeat that?
Brian Rakowski, VP of Product Management at Google, speaks about the Pixel phone, during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco, California, U.S.
Beck Diefenbach | Reuters

A report from a Taiwanese news outlet called Commercial Times says Google is in the final stages of acquiring all or part of smartphone maker HTC.

The news follows a separate story from late August that suggested Taiwan-based HTC was interested in some sort of sale.

HTC, once one of the more popular smartphone makers in the United States, has fallen off of most carrier store shelves after several consecutive unsuccessful smartphone launches. It recently launched a separate division that sells virtual reality headsets.

The report seems fishy, since Google has already been down this road, but there's a reason why Google might be interested in HTC.

The Taiwanese company builds the Google Pixel, which means it could be a good fit for Google as it continues to cater to consumers with its "Pixel" smartphone brand.

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Here's where it sounds off base: Google acquired Motorola Mobility and then sold it off just a couple of years later. Why repeat that move?

Commercial Times said HTC's poor financial position and Google's desire to "perfect [the] integration of software, content, hardware, network, cloud, [and] AI," is the driving force behind Google's interest. The news outlet said Google may make a "strategic investment" or "buy HTC's smartphone R&D team" which suggests that the VR team would exist as its own.

UBS analyst Eric J. Sheridan explained in a note on Thursday why Google might want to push further into hardware:

From a strategic standpoint, owning & operating its own mobile operating division would offset some of the key strategic challenges that Google's mobile computing business might face: a) a deeper integration of hardware/software would offset some of the Android fragmentation issues that do not plague Apple iOS; b) development cycles that maximize forward mobile computing trends (Google Lens, location, ARCore, Google Assistant) with possible greater user adoption; c) an offset to rising Distribution TAC expenses; & d) an offset to any negative industry dynamics (unbundling of apps) resulting from the European Commission's Android investigation.

Sheridan said a Google acquisition of HTC would be "immaterial to Alphabet" given its $95 billion cash stash.

Google and HTC declined to comment to CNBC.

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