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HTC forms $10 billion alliance to develop virtual reality

The HTC Vive.

SHANGHAI -- Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC will lead a venture capital alliance to develop the virtual reality market, hoping to find growth in the new technology as it turns its focus away from the loss-making smartphone sector.

The alliance will pool over $10 billion to invest in VR sectors such as content, applications and education, Alvin Wang Graylin, China regional president of VR at HTC said on Thursday.

Wang also said: "[The VR sector] needs leadership with a long-term vision. We're helping to fill that void and support the VR ecosystem to grow in a healthy way." Accepted applicants will receive four-month trainings that will kick off next year and support from HTC's Beijing, Taipei or San Francisco locations.

The newly formed alliance is quickly expanding. After their official announcement on Wednesday evening during the Mobile World Congress Shanghai, five other venture capital firms have joined the program.

HTC's latest move follows its $100 million VR funding program it announced in late April. Since then, it has received more than 1,200 applications from more than 30 countries -- and China accounts for half of those. According to U.K. research firm Canalys, China is expected to account for 40% of VR device shipments in 2016, and HTC aims to accelerate the creation of a VR hub.

"We are going to create the most innovative place where VR will be developing the world," Wang said at MWC Shanghai.

Alvin Wang Graylin, China regional president of VR at HTC, gives a speech at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai on June 30.

HTC also aims to extend its VR business by spinning off its unit as HTC Vive Tech. The spin-off would work as "a vehicle for developing strategic alliances to help build the global VR ecosystem," the company noted in an email.

On the other hand, its core mobile phone unit is far from being profitable. For the first half of 2016, the company has been facing a double-digit decline in revenues. It saw a 37.41% decline from a year earlier in May. As softer demand is expected in the future, investors seem to be welcoming the company's shift toward VR.

HTC shares rose 2.48% to close at 103.50 New Taiwan dollars ($3.22) on the Taiwan Stock Exchange on Thursday.

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