Taiwan's HTC hires ex-Orange executive Maitre as CEO

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - HTC Corp 2498.TW has hired Yves Maitre as its new CEO, the smartphone maker said on Tuesday as it announced the replacement of Cher Wang by the former Orange executive.

Maitre will be tasked with reviving HTC, which has struggled as rivals such as Samsung 005930.KS and Huawei[HWT.UL] have come to dominate the Android smartphone sector.

While smartphones remain “part of the DNA” of HTC, Maitre told Reuters, he hopes to expand into education or business-to-business verticals as 5G connectivity expands.

“VR training and VR education are just getting started,” said Maitre. “We are clearly, clearly the number one in VR education and training. This market is growing.”

While HTC's Vive headset, which ranks among the top-selling brands alongside devices from Sony 6758.T and Facebook's FB.O Oculus, has shown promise in the fledgling virtual reality (VR) sector, it remains a niche device.

The company’s smartphones, which were industry trailblazers when first introduced in 2008, have for years maintained a global market share of 1% or below.

“Our goal at HTC is to be at the center of 5G,” said Maitre.

“If we need the smartphone to win the battle, we’ll keep the smartphone. If we don’t need the smartphone to win the battle, we’ll see.”

In January, the company began shipping the Exodus 1, a handset that comes with a number of blockchain-centric features such as a built-in cryptocurrency wallet.

HTC said in a statement that Wang will retain her role as chairwoman of its board after resigning as CEO.

Last year HTC laid off 1,500 employees, roughly one quarter of its workforce. Earlier, about 2,000 HTC employees moved to Google as part of a $1.1 billion acquisition deal.

The company’s annual revenue in 2018 hit NT$23.7 billion, a 62% drop from a year earlier.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; editing by Darren Schuettler and Alexander Smith