Huawei prepared for a financial hit from the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, as it accelerated its commitment to develop home-grown technologies by boosting R&D spending, The Wall Street Journal reported.

CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei told the newspaper the pandemic forced it to lower its financial targets for 2020, with the extent of the downturn not likely to be clear until the close of Q1 2020 (the company reports 2019 results on 31 March). A decline in smartphone sales outside of China had been offset by strong domestic sales, he said.

More than 90 per cent of its 150,000 domestic employees are back at work, with some of its operations resuming in early February after a government ruling allowed certain critical industries to restart despite a wider shutdown.

Ren insisted the outbreak hasn’t dented its efforts to develop its own technologies and reduce dependence on US imports, South China Morning Post reported.

The Chinese equipment vendor, which faces increased trade restrictions from the US government, said it boosted its 2020 R&D budget by $5 billion to more than $20 billion. Over the Chinese New Year holiday, more than 20,000 scientists and engineers worked overtime on projects aimed at keeping it ahead of the competition, he said.

He told the newspaper the company’s survival is not in doubt, but said the question is whether it can remain the leader “in the next three-to-five years” if it was unable to develop its own technology.