BenQ drive on handset brand

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BenQ, the Taiwanese electronics company that took over Siemens’ handset business in September, yesterday launched three upmarket models intended to establish its new combined brand in the fiercely competitive global mobile phones market.

The handsets unveiled in Beijing yesterday and others planned for the next few months are a vital part of efforts to stem a decline in BenQ and Siemens’ world market share and make a success of one of corporate Taiwan’s most ambitious international acquisitions.

Lee Kun-yao, chairman, said the new BenQ-Siemens branded phones embodied a blending of the disparate design strengths of the mobile unit’s European and Asian arms.

“In BenQ we come more from the enjoyment side and consumer side of technology . . . Siemens have a very strong heritage in German technologies,” Mr Lee said. “Today we launch three new products with a merging of these two extremes of culture and philosophy.”

Before the acquisition was completed, BenQ and Siemens’ combined handset market share fell from 13.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2004 to about 9.8 per cent in the third quarter of last year, according to company data compiled by Reuters. To reverse the fall, BenQ Mobile plans to focus more on making handsets for “third generation” networks, saying at least one-third of its product released this year will use 3G technology. The company yesterday launched its first 3G phone under the BenQ-Siemens brand, an “ultra-thin clamshell” model that uses the European-favoured W-CDMA standard.

BenQ is also seeking to differentiate itself with another of the phones launched on Tuesday, which uses an unusual organic LED display screen. Such OLEDs are considerably brighter than standard LED screens, but wear out faster. However, Mr Lee said drawbacks could be overcome by using special software to maximise the lifespan of the screen.

Even if BenQ’s new handsets succeed in the market, the company faces management challenges in integrating the Germany company’s operations around the world with its own Asia-centred business.

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