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Arrest of Huawei 'heiress' throws rare spotlight on family

Reuters  |  HONG KONG 

By Sijia Jiang

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Like many top Chinese executives, is a mysterious figure even in her home country, but the 46-year-old of had been widely tipped to one day take the helm of the her father founded.

That was until her shock arrest in at the request of U.S. authorities on Wednesday, a move that has entangled her in the protracted diplomatic tensions between and Her fate is now uncertain.

A source familiar with the matter told the arrest stems from Co Ltd's alleged violation of U.S. sanctions on Similar allegations of breaching U.S. export restrictions led to rival Chinese being hit with a devastating ban and heavy fines this year.

Huawei said in a statement that it had been provided with little information "about the charges" against Meng, who is also one of the vice chairs of its board and the daughter of founder from his first marriage. Huawei added that it was "not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng".

The detention of Meng, who takes her family name from her mother and has also used the English first names "Cathy" and "Sabrina", has once again thrown the spotlight on Huawei at a time of heightened global concerns over electronic security.

Much of the scrutiny stems from Ren's background with China's People's (PLA), where he worked as a for nearly a decade until his departure in 1983, after helping to build its

Officials in some governments, particularly the United States, have voiced concern that his company is close to the and government. Huawei has repeatedly insisted has no influence over it.

LOW PROFILE

Ren, 74, founded the Chinese company in 1988 and, like his elder daughter, has largely kept a low profile.

But in a rare move, he posed last month for a family photoshoot for French Match with his younger daughter and current wife.

Annabel Yao, 20, Meng's half-sister, posed in front of a grand piano with her mother, identified by the magazine as Yao Ling, and Ren, who wore a blue shirt with his hand resting on his smiling daughter's shoulder.

A Huawei to that Yao is Ren's wife. Few outsiders had previously heard of the younger daughter, a computer science student and ballerina. She recently made a high-profile appearance at the exclusive Le Bal Debutante ball in

Huawei is privately held and describes itself as employee-owned. Though Ren owns only around 1.4 percent of the shares, employees say he has supreme leadership within the company, frequently communicating to staff scattered throughout the world via internal memos.

Huawei, now China's largest company by employees, with more than 180,000 staff and revenue of $93 billion in 2017, started off selling in the 1990s.

It won its first big overseas contract for from Hong Kong's Hutchison-Whampoa in 1996. Today, Huawei's domestic and overseas revenue are equally split, according to the 2017 annual report.

Huawei derives around half of its revenue from supplying equipment to telecoms carriers around the world. It has overtaken Sweden's and Finland's to be the world's largest by revenue.

have become another key business in recent years, pitting it against and in the highly competitive market.

HEIR APPARENT

According to Huawei's website, Meng joined the company in 1993, obtained a master's degree from and in 1998, and rose up the ranks over the years, mostly holding financial roles.

She has held the positions of of the international accounting department, of Huawei Hong Kong, and of the accounting management department, according to the website.

In her first before the Chinese press in 2013, Meng said she had first joined the company as a "whose job was just to take calls".

She also said she was married with a son and a daughter and that her husband did not work in the industry, dismissing speculation she was married to a senior Huawei

Meng's importance at Huawei became apparent in 2011, when she was first named as a Company insiders describe her as capable and hardworking.

While her brother, Meng Ping, as well as her father's younger brother and his current wife all work at Huawei and related companies, none has held such senior management roles.

"The other family members are in back office, is and sits on the board," a Huawei source said. "So she is viewed as the boss's most likely successor."

(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by and Alex Richardson)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 06 2018. 17:14 IST
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