Huawei strengthens UK board with appointment of former BP CEO

Huawei has appointed John Browne, the former CEO of UK-based energy company BP, to the position of non-executive chairman of its UK unit as part of ongoing efforts by the China-based group to demonstrate its commitment to corporate governance.

Alongside Browne--whose official title is Lord Browne of Madingley--the equipment manufacturer also appointed two independent non-executive directors to the UK board: Dame Helen Alexander, chairman of UBM plc, and Sir Andrew Cahn, who served as chairman of Huawei UK's Advisory Board from 2011 to 2014.

Ken Hu, Huawei Group deputy chairman and rotating CEO, hailed the appointments as "the latest illustration of Huawei's commitment to openness and transparency and to continuing to build relationships of trust in the UK and across the world."

Huawei has consistently denied accusations from countries such as the U.S. that it has links to the Chinese government, saying it has never received a government request to spy. The group has been forced to focus on markets in Europe and elsewhere after being virtually frozen out of the U.S. market, and has placed considerable focus on its businesses in the UK, Germany and France.

The three new independent non-executive directors will be responsible for reviewing the performance of Huawei in the UK, where the company said 70 per cent of employees are recruited locally, and providing counsel to the UK management team.

Huawei's UK business will also have three executive directors assigned from its group board: CEO Hu, Chen Lifang, senior vice-president, and Gordon Luo, CEO of Huawei UK.

Lord Browne said he had worked in China and with Chinese businesses for the past 40 years and continued "to be impressed by the corporate sector's ambition and potential. I am delighted to be leading this board as it supports Huawei's next phase of growth."

Huawei made use of the recent World Economic Forum in Davos to reiterate the importance of the European market to its growth strategy. In October last year, the company said it plans to increase its procurement spending in the European Union as part of its overall investment strategy for Europe, and expects to make direct purchases worth an estimated $4.08 billion (€3.6 billion) in 2015 after spending an estimated $3.7 billion 2014.

The Chinese vendor has also previously said it plans to hire 5,500 more staff in Europe over the next five years and to double its R&D staff in the next three years.

For more:
- see this Huawei statement

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