New phones planned in the new year, as struggling Pantech is raised from the dead

Pantech Discover Phone back
Korean smartphone manufacturer Pantech was put up for sale last year, with bidders told to submit their offers before the end of October 2014 in order to rescue to desperately struggling company. Before then, Pantech went through with debt restructuring programs and an application for bankruptcy protection, after strong competition in Asia saw sales decline. Pleas to networks to help save the firm didn’t work, and culminated in the company being put on the market.

Updated on 10-19-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in news that Pantech has found a buyer

Local consortium saves Pantech

According to local reports, Pantech has been acquired by a consortium consisting of Optis and Solid, the former known for making optical drives and storage systems, and the latter a local telecoms firm. This ends the 14-months of uncertainty surrounding its future.

What does the future now hold for Pantech? There are plans to release new smartphones early next year, apparently only for the Korean market, and instead of taking on Samsung and LG with major devices, it’ll concentrate on niche devices with innovative features. However, Solid also intends to take the Pantech brand to Indonesia, where it’ll release basic smartphones and connected devices for the home.

It’s not happy days at Pantech just yet though, and the company will rely on new investment to make these plans reality. In a BusinessKorea report, an industry official notes that Pantech still needs to survive this difficult acquisition period, which isn’t expected to be short, before it can truly be considered safe from closure.

A difficult past year

Pantech was the third largest smartphone manufacturer in Korea, and is surprisingly well-known outside of the country, thanks to several of its phones finding their way to U.S. carriers. Prior to the buyout announced in October 2015, Korea’s SK Telecom was believed to be at the top of Pantech’s list of suitors, despite it seemingly being unwilling to make any moves to help Pantech avoid the need for a sale in the first place.

Additionally, several Chinese smartphone manufacturers were apparently interested in making a bid for Pantech. These included Huawei, Xiaomi, and Lenovo. A Reuters report linked Indian manufacturer Micromax with Pantech, although at the time, the company was only interested in buying a percentage stake rather than the entire business. Samsung never decided to increase the 10 percent share of Pantech it owned.

None of the above submitted a bid, and upon re-opening the sale, One Value Asset Management in the U.S. made an attempt to buy Pantech, but never completed the deal. Eventual bids from three other companies were rejected by the Korean court. The new deal with Optis and Solid is more concrete, but it remains to be seen if Pantech can emerge from this difficult period.

Article originally published on 09-29-2015

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