Huawei’s two biggest businesses grew at a healthy clip in 2019 despite a U.S. blacklisting, but the firm warned of a “difficult” 2020, noting that it would not “grow as rapidly as [it] did in the first half of 2019.”
“In the long term, the U.S. government will continue to suppress the development of leading technology, a challenging environment for Huawei to survive and thrive,” Huawei chairman Eric Xu wrote in a New Year’s letter to the company’s employees and customers. “The external environment is becoming more complicated than ever, and downward pressure on the global economy has intensified.”
Huawei is the world’s biggest maker of networking equipment and the world’s second-biggest maker of smartphones. Most analysts believe that Huawei would have surpassed Samsung in 2019 to become the biggest smartphone maker as well, but the U.S. blacklisting has at least temporarily denied it that accolade.
Xu said that Huawei posted revenues of $122 billion in 2019, a new record, and an 18 percent gain year-over-year (YOY). The firm has no obligation to provide such numbers, but it does typically announce its quarterly results in a bid for transparency. The problem, apparently, is that Huawei’s growth slowed dramatically in the second half of the year. Reuters calculates that Huawei’s revenues improved by just 3.9 percent (year-over-year) in the 4th quarter, to about $23.38 billion.
Xu also said that the firm sold 240 million smartphones in 2019, a gain of 20 percent YOY, and higher than analyst estimates. It had sold 206 million units in 2018.
Xu said that Huawei would “go all out” in 2020 to expand its smartphone business by building out its Huawei Mobile Services, a set of services and applications that will replace as many of Google’s popular Android applications as possible. This, of course, is the problem with the U.S. blacklisting of Huawei: It will drive the firm to lessen its reliance on U.S.-based networking, hardware, and software solutions and companies, a move that will ultimately harm the U.S., thanks to Huawei’s massive reach.
And Huawei has seen great success despite a U.S.-led initiative to keep the firm out of emerging 5G networks around the world: Huawei won over 60 5G-related contracts in 2019, over half of them in Europe. But Huawei’s biggest rival, Ericsson, reported that it signed 78 5G-related contracts and agreements with global carriers in 2019.
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