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Huawei eyes smartphone supremacy this year after record 2018 sales

It has reported 50 per cent jump in consumer business revenue last year to more than US$52 billion

Beijing

CHINA'S Huawei Technologies Co Ltd on Thursday said that it could become the world's biggest-selling smartphone vendor this year - even without the US market and as global scrutiny of the firm intensifies.

The bullish forecast contrasts with those of market-leader Samsung and other rivals such as Apple Inc, both of which have flagged weakening sales in China - the largest smartphone market where demand has long been slowing, and where economic growth is at its lowest pace in nearly three decades.

It comes as the United States and its allies restrict market access for Huawei, alleging that its products could be used by China for espionage. Huawei has said that the allegation is unfounded.

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Meanwhile, the firm's chief financial officer - the founder's daughter - has been arrested in Canada in relation to US sanctions violations. Huawei has denied wrongdoing.

"Our customers have trust and confidence in us," Richard Yu, Huawei's consumer division chief, said at a new-product news conference in Beijing. "It's only politics guys which are trying to put pressure on us."

The maker of telecommunications equipment, spanning aerials to handsets, reported a 50 per cent jump in consumer business revenue last year to in excess of US$52 billion. It said that it aimed to keep the momentum with the launch next month of a foldable smartphone powered by its new fifth-generation (5G) chipset.

The jump meant that the consumer business accounted for 48 per cent of total revenue, contributing more than Huawei's business for telecoms network providers for the first time.

"Even without the US market, we will be number one in the world," Mr Yu said, referring to Huawei's smartphone division, which shipped 208 million handsets last year. "I believe at the earliest this year, and next year at the latest."

Worldwide smartphone shipments likely fell 3 per cent last year, returning to low single-digit growth this year and till 2022, when 5G mobile network technology is likely to give the industry a boost, forecasts from consultancy IDC showed.

Mr Yu said that Huawei will launch the foldable phone at the Mobile World Congress next month with sales beginning in April at the earliest. He said that its Balong 5000 chipset, a rival to Qualcomm Inc's Snapdragon X50, is the world's most powerful 5G modem and can be used in vehicles. The modem is also the first to support countries' differing 5G architecture, Huawei said. REUTERS