Telecoms

CHIPS: Beijing Approves Microchip Deal, Boding Well for Qualcomm-NXP

Bottom line: China’s approval of a small US chip merger shows Beijing is actively reviewing such deals again after a brief pause to show its displeasure over US trade tensions, and bodes well for eventual approval of Qualcomm’s purchase of NXP.

China resumes consideration of global mergers

Trade tensions between Washington and Beijing have thrown a number of major companies into turmoil, as the two sides spar over the former’s attempts to form a new, more balanced bilateral relationship. Telecoms equipment maker ZTE (HKEx: 763;  Shenzhen: 000063) has stolen a lot of the limelight in that regard, as the company’s earlier case involving illegal sales of US products to Iran gets sucked into the fray.

But lower-key on the ladder has been a form of passive aggressive behavior coming from Beijing, which had quietly halted reviews of major global M&A, most notably in the high-tech microchip space.  That behavior was costing time and frustration for several companies with pending deals, including Qualcomm’s (Nasdaq: QCOM) pending mega-purchase of Europe’s NXP (Nasdaq: NXPI). Read Full Post…

TELECOMS: First ZTE, Now Huawei Comes Under US Scrutiny

Bottom line: A US investigation of Huawei into possible illegal sales of US-made equipment to Iran is old news, and may be getting dredged up now to give Washington leverage in its ongoing trade frictions with China.

Huawei under microscope for potential illegal sales to Iran

Some might argue that US sanctions against telecoms equipment maker ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 000063) are just the prelude to a much bigger story that could now be sharping up, with word that ZTE’s much larger rival Huawei is being probed in a similar case. The subject at the heart of this matter involves sales of American-made equipment to Iran, which would have violated earlier US sanctions against such sales to pressure Iran to curtail its nuclear program.

In fact, I’m quite surprised that this probe against Huawei is coming back into the headlines just now. Media reported on this potential probe as early as 2013, at the same time reports first emerged about a similar probe into ZTE. Additional reports appeared about a year ago saying an unnamed company was being investigated for violations similar to ZTE, with strong hints that the company was Huawei. (previous post) Read Full Post…

TELECOMS: ZTE Slapped with US Sanctions — Again

Bottom line: Washington’s new ban on ZTE from buying US-made components is not as political as China is portraying it, and is likely to be resolved within a few weeks after ZTE takes remedial actions related to its violation of an earlier agreement.

Washington cuts off ZTE from US suppliers

An ongoing tiff between Washington and ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 000063) is in the headlines yet again, with word that the US has banned all American companies from selling to the Chinese smartphone and telecoms equipment maker for seven years. This particular story is filled with political overtones due to the anti-China stance of Donald Trump, who has accused Beijing of unfair trade practices. But it’s also a tale that stretches back for at least six years, which means this story began well before the current US administration.

The latest headlines are quite straightforward, and have Washington banning the sale of US-made telecoms equipment to ZTE for violating an earlier agreement reached last year. (English article) The source of this conflict dates back to 2012, when Washington first began probing ZTE for selling American-made equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions that at that time were designed to punish the country for its nuclear program. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Foxconn Rises on Apple, Huawei and Xiaomi

Bottom line: Foxconn’s taking of the smartphone manufacturing crown from Samsung reflects the resurgence of Apple and rises of Huawei and Xiaomi, and could ultimately force other brands to use such third-party producers.

OEMs rise on smartphone manufacturing list

Today we’ll take a step back from the usual name-brand smartphone rankings to look at a new report that shows that Taiwan’s Foxconn (HKEx: 2038) is emerging as one of those “industry leaders you never heard of”, quietly supporting some of the fastest-growing names. That’s the big takeaway from the latest figures from data tracking firm IDC, which show that Foxconn officially passed global titan Samsung (Seoul: 005930) in last year’s final quarter to become the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer.

Most industry insiders already know Foxconn and its parent, Hon Hai, because of their longtime relationship as a key producer of iPhones for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). But the Taiwan company also counts Xiaomi as a major client, as that company experiences a resurgence in its fortunes after a couple of years in the dark. Foxconn also makes phones for Huawei, which is also doing quite well on the global smartphone scene at the moment. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Gionee Treads Water as China Smartphone Sales Plunge

Bottom line: Skidding sales in China’s oversaturated smartphone market are long overdue, and could claim Gionee as a first major victim by year-end.

China smartphone sales slide in Q1

The inevitable is finally happening, and China is showing signs of smartphone burnout. The latest government data is showing that first-quarter smartphone sales in China plunged 26 percent, which is one of the largest drops I can ever recall. In this case we can’t really blamed the usual seasonal effect, since this is a quarterly number that includes both January and February — the two months when Lunar New Year falls.

At the same time, separate reports are citing a top executive at second-tier smartphone maker Gionee shooting down rumors that his company may not pay some of its suppliers due to funding shortages. This comes just weeks after the company made mass layoffs at a major production facility in the southern city of Dongguan, and is one of the stronger signals of distress I’ve seen from China’s bumper crop of second-tier smartphone makers. Read Full Post…

TELECOMS: Huawei Feasts on China Market

Bottom line: Huawei’s strong revenue and profit growth for 2017 are coming largely on the back of its home China market, which should continue to boost the company as Beijing aggressively pushes upcoming 5G services.

Huawei finds land of plenty in hometown market

Telecoms giant Huawei is in the headlines as the new week begins, with word that the company has rekindled its profit growth in its latest reporting year. Unlike other companies, Huawei isn’t publicly traded and thus isn’t required to release any financials, which always means we need to take their numbers with a slight grain of salt. But generally speaking the company does seem to be trying to report meaningful figures, at least based on past years when the results weren’t all that flattering.

This time around the results look good, at least the final ones for revenue and profit growth. But a closer look shows something that many of us know, namely that the company is heavily dependent on its home market for that relatively strong showing. Some of that is probably deserved, as Huawei has emerged as a maker of quality products for both its core networking equipment and also its newer smartphones, which count myself as one of their fans and owners. Read Full Post…

STOCKS: Lenovo, China Telecom Mull CDR Homecomings

Bottom line:  Hong Kong-listed “Red chip” stocks like Lenovo and China Telecom could eventually make secondary listings in China under a new CDR program, but will be forced to wait behind higher-profile Internet names like Alibaba.

‘Red chips’ eye China listings under CDR program

With all of the major IPOs for the week now in the history books, as most of the world takes a vacation for Good Friday, I thought I’d close out the week here in China with yet another angle on the China Depositary Receipt (CDR) program that is creating lots of buzz. Regular readers will know this is a reference to China’s planned take on the popular American Depositary Receipt (ADR) program that lets companies with a primary listing in one market make secondary listings in another one.

Lots has been written these last couple of weeks about how the CDR program could let U.S.- and Hong Kong-listed tech giants like Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) and Tencent (HKEx: 700) make new secondary listings in China, which they couldn’t do before. But today we’re getting the first few peeps about similar homecomings from top executives of a group of Hong Kong-listed companies known as “red chips”, which are major Chinese firms that are currently barred from listing at home. Read Full Post…

CHIPS: U.S. Kills China Deals to Buy Xcerra, Chicago Stock Exchange

Bottom line: Two new vetoes for Chinese purchases of US microchip and financial companies are the latest signals the Donald Trump administration intends to use such vetoes to fight for a more balanced trade relationship.

Washington vetoes 2 more Chinese U.S. purchases

What started as a trickle of dying cross-border deals involving Chinese buyers of US assets is showing signs of becoming a flood, with two new vetoes hitting the headlines. The latest of those is from the all-too-familiar high-tech chip sector, and has US chip maker Xcerra (Nasdaq: XCRA) saying it is scrapping its plan to be purchased by a Chinese buyer after failing to win clearance from the US national security reviewer. In a related vein, the Chicago Stock Exchange earlier this week scrapped a similar deal due to objections from the US stock regulator.

This pair of collapses extends a recent string of similar developments that actually dates back to the Obama administration. But the pace is clearly picking up under current President Donald Trump, who has made no secret of the fact that he wants to see a more level playing field in US-China trade relations. Whether or not these deals represent a real security risk is open to interpretation. But regardless, Trump is making it clear he will use this pretext to block deals in the sensitive financial and high-tech sectors. Read Full Post…

TELECOMS: Spurned by US, Huawei Turns to UK

Bottom line: Huawei’s latest big financial commitment to the UK is mostly for show, but Britain could still emerge as a winner over the longer term if Huawei conducts more R&D work in its British labs.

Huawei gives $4.2 billion gift to UK

After getting the cold shoulder from the US for its smartphones, telecoms superstar Huawei is turning increasingly to Europe, and specifically to Britain, for consolation. That’s the key takeaway from the latest reports that say Huawei has told British Prime Minister Theresa May that it will spend a further 3 billion pounds ($4.2 billion) on procurement from the UK on top of its other commitments to the country. (English article)

This particular move seems mostly political, and also it’s questionable how significant it is. Huawei made its commitment last week during a trip by Theresa May to China, and this kind of mega-commitment is quite common during these meetings between Chinese and global leaders. The fact of the matter is that Huawei posted 600 billion yuan ($97 billion) in sales last year, meaning it had to spend perhaps half of that amount, or around $50 billion, on procurement of various components for its core networking equipment and smartphones. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Dumped by AT&T, Huawei Enters US with Supermodel

Bottom line: Huawei’s decision to go ahead with a US market entry for its latest high-end phone, despite collapse of a tie-up with AT&T, is likely to produce very limited results due to lack of a carrier partner.

Huawei goes solo into US

If you can’t get a serious business partner, at least get a pretty face. That seems to be the message coming from a frustrated Huawei, which has announced it has signed on “Wonder Woman” star and model Gal Gadot as chief experience officer as it prepares to enter the US. This somewhat frivolous move was most likely part of a bigger announcement the company hoped to make for a grander entry to the US in partnership with corporate partner AT&T (NYSE: T).

But as many market watchers may already know, the AT&T deal reportedly collapsed at the last moment for unexplained reasons. The new tie-ups were all set to be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) taking place this week in Las Vegas. While the show went on and Huawei announced plans to release a version of its high-end Mate 10 in the US, with Gadot as product spokeswoman, the AT&T announcement never came. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Xiaomi Eyes IPO, Gets Setback in Europe

Bottom line: Xiaomi’s growing comeback is giving it confidence to launch an IPO plan, as its loss of a trademark case in Europe highlights renewed obstacles it will face in its global expansion.

Xiaomi eyes Hong Kong IPO

Comeback kid smartphone maker Xiaomi is in a couple of headlines as we reach the middle of the week, including one that highlights its return to growth and another that shows the obstacles it will face as it continues with its global expansion. The first headline has media reporting that Xiaomi is planning an IPO as early as next year, as its sagging valuation finally returns to a growth track. The second has the company suffering a setback in Europe related to a trademark dispute with industry colossus Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), highlighting the perils it is likely to face as its global expansion moves into more developed western markets.

It’s still a bit early to say whether Xiaomi’s comeback story has legs, though growing signals are certainly pointing in that direction. I know at least one person who is a Xiaomi fan and goes out of his way to buy their phones, which means that at least some people are coming back to the brand. That’s a shift from a couple of years ago, when the company’s legions of early fans abandoned the brand after it lost its early trendy image and became more known for product problems and other glitches. Read Full Post…