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Taiwan smartphone giant HTC's former CEO joins Hong Kong tech firm Digital Domain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 August, 2015, 10:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 August, 2015, 10:29pm

Digital Domain Holdings, which runs the world’s biggest independent visual-effects company, has named former HTC chief executive Peter Chou Yung-ming as an executive director of the company, according to its regulatory filing on Friday, in an apparent effort to boost investors' confidence following the firm's unexpected trouble in the stock market earlier this year. 

Chou’s appointment, with effect from August 31, marks the first high-profile, senior executive recruitment undertaken by Digital Domain under its strategy to transform into a full-fledged technology company.

“With his expertise, the board believes he will contribute his valuable insights in the group’s business development,” Digital Domain chairman and chief executive Daniel Seah Ang said in the filing.

Chou, a co-founder of Taiwanese smartphone supplier HTC, brings the kind of credentials which could help Hong Kong-listed Digital Domain raise its profile with investors after events of the past few months.

Digital Domain’s share price plummeted in June amid news reports that well-connected Mainland Chinese businessman Che Feng, owner of a significant amount of the company's convertible bonds, was arrested the country’s anti-graft authorities. Its shares finished up 2.38 per cent to 43 Hong Kong cents on Friday, which is far from the close of HK$2.75 it set on May 19.

The beating taken by Digital Domain’s shares was followed by the cancellation of a proposed management buyout. Seah represented senior management’s bid to buy 25 per cent of former company chairman Zhou Jian’s stake in the company for an estimated HK$3.97 billion (US$512 million) in what would have been one of the biggest management buyouts in Hong Kong.

Digital Domain is currently expanding into the virtual-reality content business through a joint venture with Canadian company IM360 Entertainment, a subsidiary of interactive media firm Immersive Ventures.

Chou has more than 30 years of experience in the information technology industry, working for more than 10 years as chief executive and president at HTC.

He led HTC in its transformation from an electronics contract manufacturer of mobile phones and personal digital assistants into a major global brand and supplier of smartphones.

Stiff competition in the global smartphone market, however, led to decreased sales in the past few years for HTC, which led to Chou’s resignation from the company in March this year.

Chou started his career in information technology at Digital Equipment Corp, a United States-based server manufacturer that was acquired by Compaq Computer in 1998. Compaq was itself taken over by Hewlett-Packard in 2002.

The Digital Domain filing did not state his duties as an executive directors. The company’s other executive directors are Seah and executive vice-president Amit Chopra, who is also the chief operating officer at core visual-effects business Digital Domain 3.0 in the US.

Formerly known as Sun Innovation Holdings, Digital Domain continues to run a scrap metal trading business and owns various commercial properties and car parks in Hong Kong.

In July 2013, Sun Innovation bought 70 per cent of Los Angeles-based Digital Domain 3.0. It later adopted the acquired company’s name as its Hong Kong-listed name to reflect its main business.

Reliance MediaWorks, part of Indian conglomerate Reliance Group, controls about 30 per cent of the visual-effects house that was co-founded by famed movie director James Cameron in 1993.

Digital Domain, which posted revenue of HK$293.5 million in the six months ended June 30, was nominated for “Best Visual Effects” in the 87th Academy Awards for its work on superhero movie X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was one of the world's highest-grossing films released last year.

The first Oscar received by the original Digital Domain was for the ground-breaking visual effects on the 1997 film Titanic.