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Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to take turn as tech giant’s rotating chairwoman

Huawei Technologies Co chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, daughter of company founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei, is expected to take her turn as “rotating chairwoman” in the company from April, according to local media reports, signalling that a succession plan looks to be in place at the struggling Chinese telecommunications giant.

It would mark the first time that Meng, 50, has assumed the role since she was added as one of three rotating chairmen at Huawei in March last year, alongside Eric Xu Zhijun and Ken Hu Houkun. Xu’s current acting chairman term started on October 1 last year and will conclude on March 31.

During her six-month turn as the company’s top leader, Meng, who also serves as deputy chairwoman at Huawei, will head the company’s board of directors and its executive committee.

Meng was hailed as a national hero upon her return to China in a chartered flight in September 2021, following nearly three years under house arrest in Canada where she fought extradition to the US over a bank fraud case. Under a deal reached with US prosecutors, that case and other charges against Meng were dismissed last December.

The original reports online about Meng’s turn as rotating chairwoman were deleted, but has since been widely picked up by various Chinese media outlets. Huawei declined to comment on Thursday.

While Huawei has rarely talked about a succession plan, speculation has been rife amid calls made last year by Ren, 78, for employees to focus on the company’s survival and give up on wishful thinking, as the world seemed headed for an economic recession.

Ren has three offspring from two marriages. Son Ren Ping has shown little interest in taking over the business, according to a New York Times report in 2013. Meanwhile, Ren’s 25-year-old daughter Annabel Yao, nicknamed “little princess” of Huawei, is pursuing a career in entertainment.

That leaves Meng as the most likely candidate to take over Huawei, despite Ren’s earlier comments that she would never ascend to that role at the company owing to her lack of technical background.

Meng’s expected turn as rotating chairwoman comes at a critical time when the Shenzhen-based Huawei is facing increased pressure, with reports that the Biden administration is considering cutting off the firm from all of its American suppliers.

Privately-held Huawei has been scrambling to adapt its production of smartphones and telecommunications network equipment amid tightened trade restrictions imposed by Washington in 2020, covering access to semiconductors developed or produced using US technology, from anywhere.

The world’s largest telecoms equipment maker and formerly China’s biggest smartphone vendor, was added to the US government’s trade blacklist in 2019.

The company finally ran out of advanced in-house-designed semiconductors for its once-lucrative smartphone business in the third quarter last year, according to a report by Counterpoint Research.

Beset by US trade restrictions, Huawei is expected to report 636.9 billion yuan (US$91.5 billion) in revenue for 2022, which signifies flat sales growth after recording 636.8 billion yuan in 2021, according to a message posted by Xu at the end of December.

He said Huawei survived by “overcoming extreme difficulties” in past years, and that it would seek “quality” survival in 2023. South China Morning Post

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