By Clare Jim
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwanese smartphone company HTC Corp's net profit in the fourth quarter of 2012 missed forecasts and plunged 91 percent year-on-year as its models continued to be outsold by Apple Inc's iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's Galaxy range.
The former contract maker has been suffering a sharp decline in its fortunes since the second half of 2011 following a fairytale ride when it built a strong global brand with phones based on Google Inc's Android software.
Unaudited October-December net profit was T$1 billion ($34.48 million), the world's fifth-largest smartphone maker said on Monday, down from T$11.02 billion in the same period a year earlier and T$3.9 billion in the previous quarter. The company did not elaborate.
Eighteen analysts forecast a net profit of T$1.47 billion in the quarter, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S survey.
Fourth-quarter consolidated revenue was T$60 billion. The company said in October it expected its revenue in the quarter to be around T$60 billion, compared to T$70.2 billion in the third quarter.
Analysts said 2013 may not be a turnaround year for HTC as its marketing and brand image lag far behind Apple and Samsung.
"Q1 will be better than Q4 as Q4 was really bad, but full-year speaking, HTC's EPS might not have bottomed in 2012 if its flagship M7 sales disappoint this year," said Birdy Lu, analyst of Daiwa Capital Markets.
HTC is expected to launch a flagship model code-named "M7", in the beginning of this year, according to several analysts citing channel checks. The model could be delayed to after March from February as initially scheduled.
"The new phone could have a first-mover advantage for one to two months before Samsung launches its Galaxy S4 in April, but in the long run, it's difficult to beat Samsung's phones," said Lu.
HTC shares closed up 0.35 percent at T$T$288 before the earnings were released, while the broader market fell 0.65 percent.
(Editing by Matt Driskill)