Ren Zhengfei, Huawei founder and CEO (pictured), expressed confidence in its future growth prospects even if the US moves ahead with trade restrictions, pointing to a strong smartphone performance in 2019 and preparations to mitigate supply constraints.
Despite the looming threat of sanctions, which is affecting suppliers and consumer sentiment, he expects smartphone shipments to increase from 206 million units in 2018 to between 240 million and 250 million this year. The forecast is a worst-case scenario, and he believes things will begin to improve and drive a similar growth rate in 2020.
In a panel discussion at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, he acknowledged that outside of China, sales of the Mate 30, its first flagship smartphone launched without the full suite of Google services, had been impacted, but added there is still strong interest in the device.
Ren said so far no US company had talked with Huawei directly about its offer to licence 5G technology, noting “if a proxy or agent of a company approaches us, it doesn’t really mean much…So far there’s been no progress in that regard”.
He added the company definitely wants to work with US suppliers and always embraces globalisation. “But now we’re on the entity list and certain supplies have been stopped. We have the ability to survive and, if we have to, we have a temporary approach to manage. However, this is not our long-term strategy and we have no intention of doing everything ourselves.”
Kishore Mahbubani, former president of the UN Security Council and founding dean of the LKY School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said he was puzzled by decisions in Washington DC, arguing the US would lose its influence over China if the latter was cut loose.
In the first half of 2019, Huawei experienced rapid growth. Even after the US measures were implemented, Ren said it was able to set a solid foundation for the future. However, he acknowledged the true impact of the sanctions would likely be more heavily felt in 2020: “if by the end of the year we have healthy business, it means that we have withstood the crisis”.
Ren thanked its US suppliers for their backing over the last 30 years, noting the high number of US companies applying for licences to do business with Huawei shows the power of its customers’ trust.
Asked why he doesn’t speak directly to US President Donald Trump, Ren said he doesn’t have the channels for setting up a meeting, but said he definitely would be open to holding discussions.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back