Huawei sales surge despite problems in some Western countries

Huawei said its consumer business grew around 50 per cent last year to US$52 billion, with 206 million smartphones shipped.
Huawei said its consumer business grew around 50 per cent last year to US$52 billion, with 206 million smartphones shipped.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - Chinese tech giant Huawei on Thursday (Jan 24) said that its business has not been affected by problems in some Western countries.

The world's biggest producer of telecommunications equipment said its consumer business grew around 50 per cent last year to US$52 billion (S$71 billion), with 206 million smartphones shipped.

The growth, which came on the back of strong demand for Huawei's premium model smartphone, has led to the company's consumer business unit overtaking carrier business as its largest segment of sales, Huawei's head of the consumer division Richard Yu said.

Mr Yu, who launched Huawei's new 5G modem chipset on Thursday (Jan 24), was also bullish on the tech giant achieving smartphone supremacy - with its own technology - as early as this year.

Huawei has outpaced Apple for two straight quarters to be the second-largest smartphone vendor in the world, and is nipping at the heels of leader Samsung with a year-on-year growth of 33 per cent in market share, according to research firm IDC.

The handset that Huawei billed as the world's first foldable fifth-generation (5G) smartphone will use Huawei's Kirin 980 chipset and the new Balong 5000 modem, which the Chinese company has touted as "the world's most powerful". It claims the modem is twice as fast as anything from American rival Qualcomm, based on its internal tests.

The device will be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month, said Mr Yu.

 
 
 

Huawei has faced intense scrutiny over the past year over its relationship with the Chinese government with the company repeatedly denying US-led allegations that its devices could be used by the Chinese government for spying.

A Huawei executive was arrested in Poland earlier this month on suspicions of spying. The arrest came just two months after Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada in connection with violating US trade sanctions on Iran.

Reuters reported on Thursday that top US universities such as the University of California at Berkeley were ditching equipment made by Huawei and other Chinese companies to avoid losing federal funding under a new national security law backed by the Trump administration.

Mr Yu said the allegations against the company have had little influence on its business because Huawei's products and reputation speak for themselves. Citing data compiled by the European Union that showed it was the fifth-largest spending company on R&D in the world, Mr Yu said Huawei's products were competitive because the company invested heavily in innovation.

"Our customers have trust and confidence in us," he said.

Referring to the allegations, he said: "It's only some politicians trying to bring a lot of noise to put pressure on us."

Mr Yu said he expects 2019 to be another banner year for Huawei as 5G begins to be rolled out across the world.

The firm has successfully rolled out over 30 5G field trials across 17 Chinese provinces, with speeds that are 97 times faster than current 4G signals, said Huawei's vice-president of wireless network Yang Chaobin.

"In the Internet-of-Things era, we will enjoy greater growth," said Mr Yu. This was also why "in this complicated political environment, we still keep good growth", he added.

Many industry experts agree that Huawei is poised to reap the fruits of its extensive investments in the full spectrum of new generation mobile technologies.

"Huawei approaches the telecoms industry in a systematic way, meaning it develops all areas within the ICT environment, from silicon chips, to devices, to network infrastructure, to cloud," said Mr Tarun Pathak, associate director at market research firm Counterpoint Technology.

"Given how all-encompassing 5G is going to be, this 'total-telecom' approach is powerful, as no other industry player is doing anything similar."