HTC (2498) announced dismal fourth-quarter 2012 numbers on Monday and it resulted in a lot of gloomy coverage. Lowest quarterly profit in half a decade, weak global market share, and so on. But here’s the thing: we already knew the fourth quarter was woeful because HTC had released October and November revenue numbers earlier. What really matters is the December sales trend. And as it turns out, it looked kind of hot.
In October, HTC posted an atrocious, -61% year-on-year sales decline. In November, that decline suddenly moderated to -31% as HTC was able to deliver a nice 23% month-on-month sales rebound. Now we find out that in December, HTC managed to slash its annualized sales decline to just -18% as sales inched up 1.6% between November and December.
Is 1.6% sales growth from November to December really something to celebrate? Well, yes. Yes, it is. Because in the handset business, December is always a weaker shipment month than November. Vendors peak in November, when they move the Christmas product to retailers. In December, shipment volumes slump in anticipation of weak January demand. HTC has always showed a December revenue decline from November, even during its hot run in 2009 and 2010.
December 2012 marked the first time HTC actually increased sales from the previous month. That is why the annualized sales decline rate has now corrected smartly from -61% pace to -18% in just two months.
So yes, Q4 sucked as a quarter. But the monthly numbers now reflect exceptional improvement during the period. This is most likely due to decent demand for the Windows Phone 8X, HTC’s high-end Windows Phone, and strong European demand for the Windows Phone 8S.
HTC may still be stumbling in the Android market, but its new Windows Phones seem to have stopped its revenue collapse and may actually lead to year-on-year sales growth by February.