Pantech gears up for reboot

After escaping bankruptcy in October, the company is expected to name a new chief executive next week, and will look to new markets and the IoT as a source for growth.


Ailing South Korean handset maker Pantech is on the verge of a long awaited reboot, with an announcement expected as early as next week by its new owners on its flagship Vega smartphone, and to name a new chief executive.

While Pantech’s flagship budget Vega series could be on the chopping block, the company’s vice-president is rumoured to be in line for a promotion. Ji-wook Moon, who is in charge of R&D as director of Pantech’s Joongang Research Center, could be named co-CEO of the new entity.

The company has not launched a new Vega model since May 2014, when it showcased the Android-powered Vega Iron 2.

Pantech will be divided into two entities: Pantech, and Pantech Asset Management, which will be liquidated eventually. Pantech CEO Lee Jun-woo will head the transitional entity, Pantech Asset Management.

The consortium completed the reorganisation of key personnel for the new entity on October 23, cutting 100 jobs from the 500 Pantech positions it absorbed. The vast majority of the surviving positions were in the research and development arm of Pantech, while many of the top executives of Pantech will join Solid.

From now on, Pantech will be managed by holding company SMA Solutions, with Solid controlling more than 90 percent of all shares of SMA.

In a land of global electronics brands LG and Samsung, Pantech just could not maintain a place for its devices. Pantech had once introduced cutting edge technology — being the first to introduce fingerprint verification technology. But since its halcyon days in 2011, the company succumbed to brutal competition from Samsung, LG Electronics, and Apple in the smartphone market, and eventually fell into court receivership in August 2014.

Pantech struggled to find potential buyers as suitors came and went, none of which were approved by local courts and creditors mostly because they simply lacked financial

By April this year, Pantech prepared to liquidate. Just months after, optical disk drive maker Optis formed a consortium with Solid Technologies Inc, a sprawling IT device and service company, and paid the acquisition price on October 16, ending Pantech’s 14-month receivership. Solid also got Patech’s 4,000-plus international patents on important technologies used in the Vega phone series.

Solid CEO Jung Joon has been working closely with Ji-wook Moon, who has considerable expertise developing new products. He led Pantech R&D since 2010 and before that served as a VP at SK Teletech.

The consortium that bought Pantech has already said they are looking at IoT as a new source for growth, as well as markets in India and Southeast Asia.

Pantech could focus on budget smartphones, rather than battling with high-end devices like the Galaxy Note 5 or iPhone 6S — something which will undoubtedly be key to jumpstarting the introduction of new devices and services going forward.