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BenQ Mobile to file for bankruptcy

Taiwan pulls plug on German operation

BenQ Mobile plans to file for bankruptcy protection in Germany after its Taiwanese parent decided to stop investing in the money-losing operation, the mobile phone maker said today.

BenQ, which will continue to develop and market BenQ-Siemens brand mobile phones, said it made the decision because it saw no end to the losses after already sinking over €600m (about £406m) into the unit.

"We made this painful decision after losses continued to pile up despite our best efforts," said K Y Lee, chairman of BenQ, at a news conference in Taipei.

BenQ said the bankruptcy filing should not affect customers since the parent company will continue to develop, manufacture and sell BenQ-Siemens handsets from Asia.

The decision comes almost a year after BenQ took over the mobile phone business from Siemens, and leaves the fate of 3,000 German workers at BenQ Mobile in doubt. It also highlights the difficulty of turning around a sinking business. Under Siemens, the handset division had been losing market share. The German company even paid BenQ €250m (£169m) to take the ailing division off its hands.

BenQ has posted losses for the three financial quarters that have passed since it acquired BenQ Mobile.

Analysts have blamed stiff competition in the mobile phone industry for the troubles many handset makers have faced this year. Industry leaders Nokia and Motorola have both gained market share this year, mainly at the expense of smaller rivals, according to market researcher Gartner.

BenQ's share of the handset market dropped to 3.2 percent in the second quarter, from 4.8 percent the same time last year, according to Gartner. Meanwhile, Nokia's share rose to 33.6 percent from 31.6 percent, and Motorola's increased to 21.9 percent from 17.7 percent.

If BenQ Mobile can return to financial health as it restructures under the protection of the German government, it could return to the BenQ family of companies, BenQ said.

BenQ Mobile's headquarters in Munich, as well as sites in Kamp-Lintfort and Bocholt in North-Rhine-Westphalia will be directly affected by the decision, while operations in Brazil will undergo a financial review.

The Taiwanese company had already taken several steps to reduce costs and turn BenQ Mobile around, including laying off over 500 workers earlier this year in Germany, and announcing a plan to shut down mobile phone production in Taiwan. The company also announced several measures intended to streamline its operations, including a plan to spin off its non-handset manufacturing business.


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