An erroneous reading of a Hong Kong regulatory filing late Thursday mushroomed into a panoply of stories suggesting that Google had bought $750 million worth of Lenovo shares.

Let’s be clear. Google didn’t buy anything. Not only that, but the search giant doesn’t yet own any Lenovo shares, despite what you may have read.

The filing, which is admittedly short on details, states a number of Lenovo shares and a price, which Reuters (and then others) decided meant that Google bought shares. Some reporting reveals those figures actually reflect the maximum number of Lenovo shares (618.3 million) that Google could own when the deal closes. The actual number of shares will depend on Lenovo’s price at close, as well as various floors and ceilings put in place in the deal.

As for how all this happened, it began Thursday evening with Reuters reporting that Lenovo had made the purchase on Jan. 30. Then a number of other outlets reported that as fact, furthering the misunderstanding.

Others raised requisite skepticism that Google would be buying shares just as it was selling Motorola to Lenovo. The Information’s Amir Efrati, for example, was quick to throw cold water on the report, pointing out on Twitter that the $750 million figure was exactly the amount Google was due in its deal to sell Motorola Mobility to the Chinese electronics giant.

But even the idea that Google would already own the shares seemed dubious, what with the deal having just been announced. Indeed, reporting showed that, in fact, Lenovo was merely disclosing what Google might own, should the deal go through.

So there you have it.




2 comments
Steve Wildstrom
Steve Wildstrom

This is sadly typical of the difficulty a lot off tech reporters have reading financial statements and regulatory filings. The stock component of the Motorola deal was disclosed by both Lenovo ad Google last week, so anyone paying attention would have known that the Hong Kong filing describe wed the same shares. The Lenovo deal was also widely reported as a $3 billion purchase when it was quite clear that only $660 million was upfront cash.

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