Huawei repositioning as a 'European' company

Huawei has decided the best way to shed its image as an enigmatic Chinese company is to boost its European presence through investments and hiring.

 Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei

Ren Zhengfei

CEO Ren Zhengfei told journalists in London that his own personal shyness has made the company seem furtive. "My reluctance to meet with the media has been used as a reason to label Huawei as a mysterious company," Ren said through a translator, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to increased media outreach, Ren said Huawei's mission is to ensure that in a few years, "people perceive Huawei as a European company."

Huawei expects to boost European R&D investment, according to Ren. In January, the company announced that it spent $3.4 billion (€2.4 billion) with European suppliers in 2013. During October 2013, Huawei said it was investing $200 million (€148 million) in a new R&D center in the UK as part of a wider $2 billion investment in the country. The vendor is also participating in the METIS 2020 project, which aims to position Europe as a 5G leader.

Huawei is also working closely with European academia. The vendor announced last month that it was launching the "Telecom Sees for the Future" program with two Danish universities, The Technical University of Denmark and The University of Aalborg. Huawei is also helping support development of a 5G Innovation Center at the University of Surrey in Guildford, England.

In addition, the company is extending an employee incentive plan to all key non-Chinese employees this year.

Huawei's European campaign may already be paying off. In March, the European Commission backed off its threat to launch an investigation into alleged dumping by Chinese mobile equipment manufacturers, with the European Union's (EU) executive body saying it needs more time to determine if an investigation into illegal subsidies is required.

However, the vendor is still essentially shut out of the U.S. infrastructure market over concerns the Chinese government would use Huawei equipment to spy on Americans. Huawei has denied those allegations and continues to pursue deal with small and rural telecom operators.

Ren also said he expects it may take 10 or 20 years for Huawei to be fully accepted in the United States as "a company with integrity." He added: "We may have opportunities then."

According to Reuters, Ren said he was not surprised by media reports in March that said the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on his company.

Ren also said Huawei has no plans for an initial public offering anytime soon. "Shareholders are greedy and they want to squeeze every bit out of the company as soon as possible," he said.

Huawei's employee-owned structure, in which the vendor's 150,000 employees are shareholders, is "part of the reason Huawei could catch up and overtake some of our peers in our industry," Ren said, explaining that making employees into owners "creates a very strong drive to boost the development of the company."

For more:
- see this Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article

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