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Trump hasn't killed Huawei, firm on track to post 30% sales growth in H1

The bottom line is that Huawei is still in the fight - both in equipment and handsets - and it has the support of an entire nation behind it

Tim Culpan | Bloomberg Opinion 

Photo: Shutterstock

Things aren't so desperate for Technologies Co after all.

Just over a month ago we were told that the Chinese electronics giant was hunkering down for a drop of as much as 60 million units in overseas handset shipments this year. That was quite a blow, I wrote at the time, considering that consumer devices accounted for 45 per cent of its revenue last year from sales of around 206 million units.

This week, however, we learn that the target of US sanctions is actually on track to post sales growth of around 30 per cent in the first half of the year. The work by select teams to get critical components despite the ban and nail down fifth-generation mobile-network contracts are among key reasons for the suddenly sanguine revenue numbers, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.

Over the past year, the avalanche of news about has been dismal. The company is still on a US blacklist that threatens to cut off supplies of American components and software, and its chief financial officer is under house arrest in Vancouver. While some US tech executives have lobbied the Trump administration to ease restrictions on – which counts the likes of Alphabet Inc and Intel Corp among suppliers – the outlook remains uncertain.

It's unclear, at least to me, what end game US President Donald Trump had in mind when he authorised the Department of Commerce to blacklist Huawei. (Trade war leverage certainly seems to have been part of it.) But it's hard to believe administration officials would be so naive as to think they could shutter the company. Now Huawei's victimisation narrative has united Chinese, from bureaucrats to ordinary citizens, behind a common goal of technology independence. Trump may not realise it, but he's fired the starting gun on a technology cold war that could wind up strengthening China's homegrown champions.

If Huawei can keep its 30 per cent pace of sales growth through to the end of the year, it will have pulled off its strongest annual revenue increase since 2016. A lot of that will come from network equipment sales – with the smartphone market in a funk – and because we're at the start of another capex cycle, as global telecom operators start to install fifth-generation systems.

ALSO READ: Over 600 jobs cut at US unit following Washington's sanctions: Huawei

To be sure, Huawei might not get the same levels of market share it did for 4G networks. That's not entirely due to the anti-Chinese campaign waged by the US. Some telcos are leaning toward options that give them more flexibility than they feel Huawei offers.

We also can't ignore that half of the company's revenue comes from overseas. Boosting demand at home could help compensate for lost business, but Huawei would still have to battle local rivals such as Xiaomi Corp, Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus for market share.

The optimistic news about Huawei's sales offers a bit of something for everyone. Skeptics can raise an eyebrow and claim that the Chinese company was crying crocodile tears over foreign attacks on its business. Fans, on the hand, can point to its resilience and determination. Both are correct.

ALSO READ: Huawei secretly helped N Korea build commercial wireless network: Report

The bottom line is that Huawei is still in the fight – both in equipment and handsets – and it has the support of an entire nation behind it. That means it's way too early to draft a eulogy for this Chinese hero.

First Published: Wed, July 24 2019. 12:14 IST