Chinese telecom giant Huawei on Monday reported record profits for 2021, with executive Meng Wanzhou appearing in public for the first time since returning to China from Canadian custody in defiance of US sanctions.
Former President Donald Trump’s administration has crippled it due to cyber security and espionage concerns, while the company has been caught in the crosshairs of the US-China trade and technology rivalry.
The results, announced by the Chinese technology center Shenzhen, mark Meng’s first return to the limelight since his high-profile return to China after nearly three years under house arrest in Canada.
Meng, the daughter of CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei, has spent years fighting for his extradition to the United States in Canada, as Washington accuses him of defrauding HSBC Bank of trying to cover up alleged violations of US sanctions on Iran.
He returned to the country shortly after the release of two Canadians from Chinese prisons, ending a diplomatic standoff that had poisoned relations between Beijing and Ottawa for years.
Huawei’s revenue fell 29 percent last year to CNY 636.8 billion (about Rs 761,415 crore) as it battled U.S. sanctions aimed at blocking access to key technologies and supplies.
But the recession seems to have slowed under US sanctions, and the company says its net profit has set a new record – up 75.9 percent year on year to CNY 113.7 billion (approximately Rs 135,990.430 crore).
In a statement on Monday, Meng said, “Despite the decline in revenue in 2021, our ability to make profits and create cash flow is increasing and we are more capable of dealing with uncertainty.”
The company attributed its profits to “enhanced product portfolio and more efficient internal operations”, and even increased net profit margins by excluding profits from sales of its budget phone brand Honor. The company is not publicly listed and its accounts are not subject to the same audit as the company traded on the stock market.
Huawei, a supplier of telecom networking gear and smartphone brands, has been struggling since launching a campaign to hold the Trump company in 2018.
Smartphone sales stopped after the United States disengaged from Huawei’s core parts and barred it from using Google’s Android services. Last year, Huawei logged CNY 243 billion (about Rs 290,550.436 crore) in consumer business sales – about 50 percent less than by 2020.
Huawei has instead sought to shore up other parts of its business, re-focusing on the Chinese market and diversifying to include enterprise and cloud computing with other business segments related to the 5G network.
Rotating chairman Guo Ping said in a speech at the event that Huawei’s ability to “survive and improve” depends on ongoing investment in development.
“Our fight for survival is not over yet,” Guo said. “No matter what comes our way, we will continue to invest. That is the only way.”
Last year, the company’s research and development investment amounted to CNY 142.7 billion (approximately Rs. 170631.249 crore), which is about 22 percent of its total revenue.