ZTE chairman says sorry

HONG KONG/SHENZHEN • The chairman of ZTE Corp apologised to staff members and customers yesterday after the Chinese technology firm agreed to pay a US$1 billion (S$1.33 billion) fine to the United States to end a supplier ban that has crippled its business.

The deal allows China's second-largest telecoms equipment firm to restart operations, reaffirm supplier relationships and rebuild trust with global clients, as it works to move on from an episode it said threatened its very existence.

But industry experts estimated it would take at least a month for ZTE to ship phones again after the ban is lifted, while employees feared job cuts, wage reductions and a potential loss of customers, with the firm set to reshuffle its senior management team.

The company agreed on Thursday to pay the fine and overhaul its leadership to lift the ban that has been in place since April.

The ban, which traces back to a breach of a US embargo on trade with Iran, had prevented ZTE from buying the US components it heavily relies on to make smartphones and other devices.

The case has become highly politicised and a key focus of whipsawing talks as Washington and Beijing look to avert a trade war.

In a memo to staff yesterday, ZTE chairman Yin Yimin apologised to employees, clients, shareholders and business partners, saying the firm would look to learn from its errors and hold those responsible accountable, a member of its staff told Reuters.

"This issue reflects problems that exist with our firm's compliance culture and at management level," Mr Yin wrote, according to the staff member.

ZTE did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2018, with the headline 'ZTE chairman says sorry'. Print Edition | Subscribe