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Huawei says 2021 sales down, profit up

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei said yesterday its sales fell but profit rose 76 per cent in 2021, despite United States (US) sanctions.

Huawei’s chief financial officer was released by Canadian authorities last year, ending a standoff with Washington over the tech giant’s dealings with Iran. The company is caught in the middle of tensions with Washington over technology and security.

American officials say Huawei, the biggest maker of network gear for phone carriers, is a security risk that might enable Chinese spying, an accusation the company rejects.

Huawei Technologies Ltd, China’s first global tech brand, stepped up its emphasis on serving hospitals, mines and other industrial customers after its smartphone business, once one of the biggest, was crippled by the curbs imposed by Washington on access to US components and other technology in 2019.

The company reported 2021 revenue of USD99.9 billion, down 28.6 per cent from 2020. It said its profit rose 75.9 per cent to USD17.8 billion.

“Our overall financial resilience is strengthening,” the CFO, Meng Wanzhou, said at a news conference at Huawei headquarters in the southern city of Shenzhen. “The company is more capable of dealing with uncertainty.”

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou speaks at the Huawei 2021 Annual Report Press Conference in Shenzhen. PHOTO: AFP

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested in Canada in 2018 on US charges that she lied to banks in Hong Kong about dealings with Iran. Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians in an attempt to force Canada to release her.

Meng was released in September under a deal with the US Justice Department that will dismiss the charges in exchange for her accepting responsibility for misrepresenting Huawei’s dealings with Iran. The two Canadians were released after Meng returned to China.

In a passing reference to her arrest, Meng said, “in the few months after I came back, I have been trying to catch up.”

Huawei, founded in 1987, said it is owned by the Chinese employees who make up half of its workforce of 195,000 people in 170 countries and regions.

Sanctions imposed by then-President Donald Trump blocked Huawei’s access to US processor chips and other components and Google’s music, maps and other services for smartphones. The White House tightened those restrictions in 2020 by blocking global manufacturers from using US technology to produce Huawei-designed chips.

Huawei responded by stepping up emphasis on its home China market and on electric and self-driving cars, industrial networks and other applications that are less vulnerable to US pressure.

The company sold its lower-priced Honor smartphone brand to a government-led investment group in November 2020 in hopes of reviving sales by separating it from sanctions on the parent company. Honor received US government permission to resume buying processor chips and other technology.

Huawei said its unit industrial and government customers had CNY102.4 billion (USD16.1 billion) in 2021 revenue.

The company said it launched products for transportation, finance, energy and manufacturing and dedicated coal mine, ports and “smart road” teams.

The unit that serves phone and Internet carriers had CNY281.5 billion (USD44.2 billion) in sales.