Showing posts with label ZTE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ZTE. Show all posts

Thursday, August 30, 2018

ZTE counts its losses for 1H18, renews focus on 5G

ZTE Corporation reported revenue of RMB 39.434 billion for the first six months of 2018, down 27% from RMB 54.010 for the same period in 2017.

For the six months, ZTE's net profit attributable to holders of ordinary shares of the listed company amounted to RMB-7.824 billion, representing year-on-year decline of 441.24%. Basic earnings per share amounted to RMB-1.87, which reflected mainly the company’s payment of the US$1 billion penalty to the U.S. government.

ZTE's operating revenue from the domestic market amounted to RMB25.746 billion, accounting for 65.29% of the Group’s overall operating revenue, while international sales amounted to RMB13.688 billion, accounting for 34.71% of the total.

ZTE's operating revenue for carriers’ networks, government and corporate business and consumer business amounted to RMB23.507 billion, RMB4.433 billion and RMB11.494 billion, respectively.

Management's commentary included the following:  "Looking to the second half of 2018, the Group will welcome new opportunities for development, given rapid growth in the volume of data flow over the network and the official announcement of the complete fully-functional 5G standards of the first stage. Specifically, such opportunities will be represented by: the acceleration of 5G commercialisation with the actual implementation of trial 5G deployment backed by ongoing upgrades of network infrastructure facilities; robust demand for smart terminals; as well as an onrush of new technologies and models with AI, IOT and smart home, among others, providing new growth niches. "

"In the second half of 2018, the Group will step up with technological innovation and enhance cooperation with customers and partners in the industry with an ongoing focus on high-worth customers and core products. In the meantime time, we will improve our internal management by enhancing human resources, compliance and internal control to ensure our Group’s prudent and sustainable development."



Monday, August 13, 2018

U.S. Defense Authorization Act bans Huawei and ZTE from government purchase

The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019, which was signed into law by President Trump, officially prohibits the  U.S. government from purchasing telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation, or any of their affiliates.  The U.S. government is also prohibited from using telecommunications or video surveillance services from any entities using such equipment.

Earlier versions of the legislation had threatened more severe action against Huawei and ZTE but were later removed from the bill.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Caixin: The Wake-Up Call for China’s Chip Industry

The near-death experience of ZTE due to the 88-day ban imposed the U.S. Department of Commerce is a wake-up call for China's semiconductor industry, according to an article in the business journal Caixin.

The article the foreign joint venture model, Chinese investments/acquisitions of tech companies abroad, and government-supported initiatives to build a strong, domestic ecosystem for semiconductor design and fabrication.

https://www.caixinglobal.com/2018-07-29/the-wake-up-call-for-chinas-chip-industry-101309608.html

Sunday, July 15, 2018

ZTE begins recovery, posts huge 1H loss

ZTE confirmed that it has resumed business operations following the lifting of the export ban of U.S. components and technology to the company imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

ZTE paid US$1.0 billion in civil monetary penalties to the U.S. and placed an additional US$0.4 billion in escrow as a suspended penalty.

ZTE reported a preliminary loss of between RMB 7 billion (US$1.06 billion) to RMB 9 billion (US$1.345 billion) for the first half of 2018. On a per-share basis, this amounts to a loss of RMB 1.67–2.15 per share.

In June, ZTE said it was pursuing a 30 billion yuan ($4.9 billion) line of credit from Bank of China and a separate $6 billion credit line from China Development Bank.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

ZTE names XU Ziyang as new president

ZTE confirmed the appointment of Mr. Xu Ziyang as the President of the company, and the appointments of Mr. Wang Xiyu, Mr. Gu Junying, and Ms. Li Ying as Executive Vice President of the company. Ms. Li Ying will also serve concurrently as Chief Financial Officer.

Mr. Xu Ziyang (徐子陽), born in 1972, graduated from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. He joined ZTE in 1998 and served as a programmer, section chief of GSM product line development department of Nanjing Research and Development Center, head of PS development department, deputy general manager of core network, and product general manager of core network.  From 2011 to 2013, Mr. Xu acted as general manager of MKT fourth branch of the company in charge of European and United States systems products. From 2014 to 2016, Mr. Xu acted as general manager of ZTE Services Deutschland Gmbh. Since 2016, Mr. Xu has been acting concurrently as assistant to the President of the Company and product general manager of the CCN core network product line products of wireless operation department of the company.

ZTE emphasized that Mr. Xu has not been subject to any penalties by China Securities Regulatory Commission or any other disciplinary sanctions by any other stock exchange. Nor has Mr. Xu been the subject of any judicial investigations.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

U.S. provides a temporary lift on exports to ZTE

The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) agreed to temporarily lift export restrictions to ZTE that were imposed on the company on 15-April-2018.

In a statement dated 02-July-2018, the BIS grants temporary authorization to engage in transactions with ZTE until 01-August-2018.

In June, at the urging of President Trump, BIS announced a deal with ZTE to lift the export restrictions in exchange for ZTE agreeing to pay a $1 billion fine and place an additional $400 million in suspended penalty money in escrow. ZTE has also replaced its entire board of directors and senior leadership team.

The ban on exports of U.S. technology to ZTE remains a hot topic in Washington. The U.S. Senate included a continued ban on exports to ZTE in a spending authorization bill for the U.S. Department of Defense. The U.S. House of Representative did not in its version of the legislation. The bills must now be reconciled before being sent to the President.



U.S. Senate's Defense Legislation hits ZTE






The U.S. Senate voted 85 to 10 to approve a $716 billion defense spending authorization bill that includes a provision extending the restriction on the export of U.S. technologies to ZTE. The provision is a rebuke to President Trump's decision to lift the ban against exports to ZTE. The Senate version of the defense spending authorization bill must be reconciled with the House version, which prohibits the federal government from purchasing ZTE products,...

ZTE resumes trading, seeks loan from Chinese banks





For the first time since April 16th, shares of ZTE resumed trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The shares were valued significantly lower than the previously listed price. ZTE also announced its intention to seek a 30 billion yuan ($4.9 billion) line of credit from Bank of China and a separate $6 billion credit line from China Development Bank. ZTE also informed the market that it has agreed to the settlement with the U.S. Department of Commerce...

U.S. reaches deal to save ZTE





The U.S. Department of Commerce announced a deal to allow the export of U.S. components and technology to ZTE, enabling the company to resume operations. Under the deal,  ZTE must pay $1 billion and place an additional $400 million in escrow. ZTE also agreed to certain provisions allowing monitoring of its compliance with U.S. export control laws. “Today, BIS (Bureau of Industry and Security) is imposing the largest penalty it has ever levied...

FWD: The death of ZTE

Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Corporation (ZTE), one of the world's largest suppliers of network infrastructure products, informed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that "the major operating activities of the Company have ceased". 

If the notice means what we think it means, then ZTE is dead.

It took only 3 weeks from the day that the U.S. Commerce Department' Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued its order prohibiting companies or individuals from participating in any way in an export transaction with ZTE for this multinational giant based in Shenzhen to collapse. I'm not sure there has been any other corporate collapse in the networking sector of this magnitude and in this accelerated time frame. The nearest comparison would be the collapse of Nortel in 2009, but that took years to occur rather than just weeks.

ZTE's website has already started to disappear. Many product, technology and news archive pages are now gone.

The most proximate reason for the death of the company is that without new deliveries of chipsets and optical components from U.S. vendors, the manufacturing lines for ZTE must have already come to a halt, leaving the company unable to ship products. Just-in-time manufacturing probably means that the company has insufficient inventory to sustain operations during a protracted appeal or legal fight with the U.S. Department of Commerce. More importantly, if the market has lost confidence, the sharks smell blood, and normal operations become impossible.

There will be a scramble amongst investors, creditors, employees, competitors, suppliers, and customers to secure whatever value remains in the organisation. There should be plenty.

Salvaging the good bits

First, there is a huge installed base of ZTE equipment worldwide in carrier networks, in data centres, in enterprise IT centres, and in home networks. The value of this equipment could be in the tens of billions if we take a cumulative count of sales over the last four years. These networks, which belong to the customers and their lenders, will need to be supported.  There is ongoing business here for someone.

ZTE holds the No.1 or No. 2 markets share position on many of the core infrastructure projects of the big three carriers in China -- China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom.

All of ZTE's product segments were growing. Here are the 2017 annual growth rates:

  • Carrier networks  8.3%
  • Gov't and corporate  10.4%
  • Consumer 5.2%


Outside of China, ZTE has many current sales contracts and open purchase orders for new equipment, with good prospects of upcoming fibre broadband, 4G, 4G, and core network projects. 

ZTE has a very extensive telecom equipment portfolio, covering every sector of wireless networks, core networks, access & bearer networks, services and terminals. 

ZTE has been listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange since 1997 and on the Hong Kong Exchange since 2004. Trading has been suspended since April 16 and so there is no way to know quite yet if the shares are now worthless. The company's balance sheet at the end of 2017 showed RMB 31.647 billion in current assets, and the company's most recent statement said it was conserving cash.

ZTE has abundant in-house and contracted production facilities capable of manufacturing large volume of smartphones, customer premise equipment, and carrier infrastructure products. 

ZTE has many current and next-generation product designs using the latest silicon from U.S., Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and other international suppliers. The product designs could be sold to other equipment suppliers.

ZTE has a considerable patent portfolio. ZTE claims to amongst the most prolific corporate patent filers in recent years. As of 30-June-2017, ZTE Group 68,000 patents, including 29,000 granted global patents.

As of mid-2017, the company was operating 20 R&D centres in China, the United States, Sweden, France, Japan and Canada, as well as more than 10 joint innovation centres established in association with leading carriers.

There is a talented pool of 74,773 employees (including 58,940 as employees of the parent company), with an average age of 33. Many of these employees have deep subject matter expertise, the vast majority of whom had nothing to do with the business decisions that got ZTE into trouble. 

ZTE was gearing up for a big play in 5G

At this year's  Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ZTE captured the “Best Technology Innovation for 5G" award for its end-to-end vision encompassing the radio access network, the core network, bearer platforms, custom 5G silicon and CPE terminals. As with other suppliers, many of these are “works in progress” rather than commercially deployable solutions right now.

ZTE's has pushed hard on Massive MIMO, the antenna technology which has been shown to improve spectral efficiency up to 8 times.

It has been pioneering a multi-user shared access (MUSA) technology to effectively increase the number of connections served, and thereby enable support for scenarios involving mass connectivity with low power consumption. This could be extremely useful in very crowded areas, such as subway systems, when everyone is using their smartphone. The MUSA technology works by allowing high overload and eliminating scheduling operations, thereby increasing the number of connections by between 3- and 6-fold. It uses advanced spread spectrum sequence and SIC technology to simplify terminal implementation and help reduce energy consumption.

In the network core, ZTE is ready to commercialize end-to-end 5G network slicing. Its Cloud ServCore platform implements lightweight micro-service components to enable the network slices to operate independently and with easy scalability. This will allow IoT applications, for instance, to scale smoothly and without impacting other network slices.

ZTE is also readying a 5G Flexhaul bearer solution based on next-gen FlexE technology. Part of this vision to achieve a unified bearer network for 3G / 4G / 5G traffic. ZTE says its 5G Flexhaul achieves end-to-end protection switching time of less than 1ms, as well as single node forwarding latency of less than 0.5μs.




ZTE was a $20 billion company on the rise

Prior to receiving the death sentence for sanctions violations and lying to the U.S. government during a probationary period, ZTE was profitable and on a $20 billion per year sales run rate.

For Q1 2018, the company reported revenue of RMB 28.879 billion (US$5.548 billion), up 12% over the same period in 2017. Net profit after extraordinary items attributable to holders of ordinary shares of the listed company amounted to RMB 1.368 billion (US$216 million). For the full year 2017, ZTE reported operating revenue of RMB 108.82 billion, 7.49% higher than a year earlier,  

Net profit for 2017 was reported at RMB 4.55 billion, an increase of 293%. Net cash flow from operating activities for 2017 was approximately RMB 6.78 billion, about 28.88% year-on-year growth. This was a quite a recovery from 2016, when revenues grew just 4% and profits were lower. With booming handset sales in China, India and other developing markets, along with good prospects for 5G, things were looking pretty good for ZTE, until its troubles with the long-running exports violation case came to a head.

Big fine in 2017

ZTE's 2017 results were impacted by troubles with the U.S. government. In March 2017, ZTE made penalty payments of over US$1.19 billion to the U.S. government-- this too for the case involving the shipment of U.S.-origin technology to Iran during the period of economic sanctions. ZTE plead guilty in the case and paid the fine. It also agreed to a number of other conditions, which were not fulfilled, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, or which ZTE subsequently lied about. 

Huawei as the beneficiary? 

ZTE generates about 40% of its revenue abroad. 

We can surmise that many of the large carrier projects that ZTE currently has underway internationally will have been funded by the Bank of China,  the China Development Bank (CDB), or other government-backed, export/import financial institutions. These carrier customers are facing the prospect of suspended or canceled projects. This presents an opportunity for other network vendors to step in and capture the business. 

However, the customer would need to secure another funding source. Huawei is the most likely to be the ZTE replacement, especially if the Bank of China or CDB were to transfer project loans on their behalf. Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and others also have an opening to entice these ZTE carrier customers with their offerings.

But what if Huawei is next?

However,  it is conceivable that the Trump administration will ratchet up the pressure on Huawei, for instance by extending all of parts of the ZTE export ban to them, or by persuading other governments to block Huawei as has been done in the U.S.. Many analysts expected that the ZTE ban was a bargaining chip in the recent, first round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China. There was, and perhaps continues to be, hope that the order would be rescinded after the trade talks. This did not happen. Perhaps the trade tensions will get worse, with Huawei coming under pressure next.

With this possibility at hand, some large carriers in countries such as Japan, Germany or Singapore, may rethink their future plans with Chinese equipment vendors in general on critical projects so as not to face supply disruptions like we now see with ZTE. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom recently announced a 5G pilot deployment in Berlin using Huawei equipment. In the U.S., T-Mobile is prohibited from using Huawei as a supplier. With T-Mobile now seeking to merge with Sprint, U.S. regulators conceivably could require the German parent company to remove all Huawei gear from all of its networks as a condition for approving the merger. 

In other countries, there will be other geopolitical considerations. In Russia, ZTE has just clinched a 70% share of the first stage of  Rostelecom's the access network modernization project. ZTE's Multi-Service Access Network (MSAN) product delivers VDSL. Rostelcom is currently testing G.vectoring and G.fast for deployment in a second stage of its upgrade project. Rostelecom, of course, is Russia's leading broadband and pay-TV provider with over 12.7 million fixed-line broadband subscribers and over 9.7 million pay-TV subscribers, over 4.7 million of which are subscribed to its IPTV service. Given the need for Rostelcom to complete this network upgrade successfully, on-time and on budget, they will look for other suppliers.. but probably not from the U.S.

In India, ZTE is now a major supplier of low-cost smartphones and optical transmission gear. In October 2017, ZTE announced a 100G WDM Backbone Network Project and metro area network (MAN) construction contract with Idea Cellular, the third largest mobile operator in India with 189 million subscribers. With this deal, ZTE’s OTN optical transport platform captured a 95% share in the metro optical backbones that carry Idea Cellular’s traffic. ZTE has previously disclosed major contracts with Bharti Airtel as well. This success comes despite some protectionist voices in India warning against Chinese suppliers for critical network infrastructure.

Other recent contract wins include the Ooredoo Group, which serves 164 million customers across the Middle East, and South Africa based MTN. For Ooredoo Group, ZTE was expected to supply end-to-end networks, applications, and terminals in preparation for a 5G launch. MTN was also looking at deploying ZTE’s 5G NR radio access, 5G virtualized network slicing, carrier DevOps and container-based vEPC, and 5G Flexhaul bearer network.

The ZTE effect on suppliers

For those companies who were supplying chipsets, optical components, memories, display technologies, protocol stacks, etc. to ZTE, there will be a waiting game to see who takes up the slack. We can presume that the size and growth of the market will remain the same before and after this incident. If ZTE doesn't supply that core router, someone else will. 

What comes next?

The ZTE statement about ceasing normal activities holds out a glimmer of hope that the U.S. government might hear an appeal and grant a reprieve. Last week, U.S. trade negotiators visited China. Obviously, no deal occurred or ZTE would not have made its statement. 

Whatever comes next, it better happen quickly because sales contracts and talented employees will not stick around to what eventually emerges. The best people and ideas will move on to competitors or new ventures.

The most likely outcome is that ZTE individual business units are sold off, spun out, or otherwise reorganised into new corporate entities. In other words, the same cast of characters with the same products but operating under a new name.

Monday, June 18, 2018

U.S. Senate's Defense Legislation hits ZTE

The U.S. Senate voted 85 to 10 to approve a $716 billion defense spending authorization bill that includes a provision extending the restriction on the export of U.S. technologies to ZTE. The provision is a rebuke to President Trump's decision to lift the ban against exports to ZTE.

The Senate version of the defense spending authorization bill must be reconciled with the House version, which prohibits the federal government from purchasing ZTE products, but not reimpose the export ban on the company.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is believed to be negotiating on Capitol Hill to ensure that the ban against ZTE does not become part of the final bill.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ZTE resumes trading, seeks loan from Chinese banks

For the first time since April 16th, shares of ZTE resumed trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The shares were valued significantly lower than the previously listed price.

ZTE also announced its intention to seek a 30 billion yuan ($4.9 billion) line of credit from Bank of China and a separate $6 billion credit line from China Development Bank.

ZTE also informed the market that it has agreed to the settlement with the U.S. Department of Commerce and will pay civil monetary penalties totalling US$1.4 billion, including a lump sum payment of USD1 billion to
be paid within 60 days of the issuance of the 8 June 2018 Order, and an additional suspended penalty of US$0.4 billion to be placed within 90 days of the issuance of the 8 June 2018 Order.

ZTE also listed the following conditions imposed by the order.

1. A new denial order (the “New Denial Order”) for a period of ten years from the issuance of the 8 June 2018 Order (the “Probationary Period”) that would, among other things, restrict and prohibit ZTE from applying for, obtaining, or using any license, license exception, or export control document, and participating in any way in any transaction involving any commodity, software, or technology that is subject to the U.S. Export Administration Regulations (the “Regulations”) shall be imposed, but the New Denial Order shall be suspended during the Probationary Period, and thereafter be waived subject to ZTE's compliance with the Agreement
and the 8 June 2018 Order.

2. ZTE shall replace the entire boards of directors (the “Boards of Directors”) of both the Company and ZTE Kangxun within 30 days of the issuance of the 8 June 2018 Order. Within 30 days of replacing the Boards of Directors, ZTE shall create special audit/compliance committees under the Boards of Directors composed of three or more independent members of the new Boards of Directors. The chair of the Boards of Directors can be a member of the committee but cannot chair the committee.

3. ZTE shall terminate all current members of the senior leadership of both the Company and ZTE Kangxun at or above the senior vice president level as well any executive or officer who participated in, oversaw, or was otherwise responsible for the conduct described in the proposed charging letter issued by BIS in March 2017 or the 15 April 2018 Denial Order, within 30 days of the issuance of the 8 June 2018 Order, and prohibit the re-hire of those employees by ZTE and any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. ZTE will promptly report to BIS on its implementation of this term. BIS, at its sole discretion, may consider exemptions to this term.

4. ZTE shall retain at its expense an independent special compliance coordinator (“SCC”) within 30 days of the issuance of the 8 June 2018 Order to coordinate, monitor, assess, and report on compliance by ZTE and its subsidiaries or affiliates worldwide with the U.S. Export Administration Act of 1979, the Regulations, the Agreement and the 8 June 2018 Order during the Probationary Period. The SCC will report to the chief executive officer and the Board of Directors of ZTE and to BIS, equally.

5. ZTE shall complete and submit nine audit reports of its compliance with U.S. export control laws. At the conclusion of the term of the independent compliance monitor created according to the agreement signed between the Company and the United States Department of Justice (as disclosed in the announcement of the Company dated 8 March 2017) and any related court orders, the SCC will be responsible for conducting the six remaining audit reports. 

6. ZTE shall provide extensive training on applicable export control requirements to its leadership, management and employees, and the leadership, management and employees of its subsidiaries, affiliates, and other entities worldwide over which it has ownership or control.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

U.S. reaches deal to save ZTE

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced a deal to allow the export of U.S. components and technology to ZTE, enabling the company to resume operations.

Under the deal,  ZTE must pay $1 billion and place an additional $400 million in escrow. ZTE also agreed to certain provisions allowing monitoring of its compliance with U.S. export control laws.

“Today, BIS (Bureau of Industry and Security) is imposing the largest penalty it has ever levied and requiring that ZTE adopt unprecedented compliance measures,” said Secretary Ross. “We will closely monitor ZTE’s behavior. If they commit any further violations, we would again be able to deny them access to U.S. technology as well as collect the additional $400 million in escrow."

Last year, ZTE paid $892 million in penalties to the U.S government in a March 2017 settlement agreement.

Trading of ZTE shares in Hong Kong has been suspended since April 16th. The company halted major operating activities on May 9.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Trump announces deal to lift export ban on ZTE

President Trump announced a deal to save ZTE by lifting the current export ban on U.S. products to the company. In exchange, ZTE is to pay a $1.3 billion fine, make changes to its management, and hire U.S. compliance officers.

As of Monday, there has not an official statement or posted order by the U.S. Department of Commerce lifting the ban.

The deal continues to face opposition in Congress, including from Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, who is threatening legislative action to block the deal.

Trade negotiations between the U.S. and China are expected to resume in early June.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Trump defends pivot on ZTE

In a follow-up tweet regarding ZTE, President Trump defended his decision to intervene in the case with the Department of Commerce, citing on-going trade negotiations and his personal relationship with President Xi.

Meanwhile, Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce, said ZTE did "inappropriate things" referring to its violation of economic sanctions against Iran, but that his department would now consider "other remedies" instead of the current export ban of U.S. products to ZTE. Media sources also speculated that China was using the delayed approval process for Qualcomm's acquisition of NXP Semiconductor as its own bargaining chip in the ongoing bilateral trade negotiations.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Trump instructs Department of Commerce to save ZTE

In a tweet on Sunday morning, President Trump said he has instructed the Department of Commerce to find a way to get ZTE back into business fast because "too many jobs in China" would be lost. Trump's tweet also references President Xi of China.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/995680316458262533

FWD: The death of ZTE



Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Corporation (ZTE), one of the world's largest suppliers of network infrastructure products, informed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that "the major operating activities of the Company have ceased".  If the notice means what we think it means, then ZTE is dead. It took only 3 weeks from the day that the U.S. Commerce Department' Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued its order prohibiting companies...


ZTE: Major operating activities have ceased



ZTE stated that "the major operating activities of the Company have ceased" due to the export ban imposed on it by the U.S. Commerce Department' Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The announcement was made in a regulatory filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Trading of the company's shares have been suspended since April 16th. ZTE also said that it is actively communicating with the U.S. government in order to secure a reversal of the...


Three weeks in, ZTE appeals to U.S. Commerce Dept as shares remain suspended



ZTE has appealed to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to lift the ban on the export of U.S. products to the company, according to a regulatory filing made by ZTE to the Hong Kong exchange. There is no word on whether the appeal will be heard or acted upon by BIS. Meanwhile, trading of ZTE's shares on the Hong Kong market remain suspended since April 16th. ZTE posted a Q1 growth rate of 12% prior to export ban...

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

FWD: The death of ZTE

Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Corporation (ZTE), one of the world's largest suppliers of network infrastructure products, informed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that "the major operating activities of the Company have ceased". 

If the notice means what we think it means, then ZTE is dead.


It took only 3 weeks from the day that the U.S. Commerce Department' Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued its order prohibiting companies or individuals from participating in any way in an export transaction with ZTE for this multinational giant based in Shenzhen to collapse. I'm not sure there has been any other corporate collapse in the networking sector of this magnitude and in this accelerated time frame. The nearest comparison would be the collapse of Nortel in 2009, but that took years to occur rather than just weeks.

ZTE's website has already started to disappear. Many product, technology and news archive pages are now gone.

The most proximate reason for the death of the company is that without new deliveries of chipsets and optical components from U.S. vendors, the manufacturing lines for ZTE must have already come to a halt, leaving the company unable to ship products. Just-in-time manufacturing probably means that the company has insufficient inventory to sustain operations during a protracted appeal or legal fight with the U.S. Department of Commerce. More importantly, if the market has lost confidence, the sharks smell blood, and normal operations become impossible.

There will be a scramble amongst investors, creditors, employees, competitors, suppliers, and customers to secure whatever value remains in the organisation. There should be plenty.

Salvaging the good bits

First, there is a huge installed base of ZTE equipment worldwide in carrier networks, in data centres, in enterprise IT centres, and in home networks. The value of this equipment could be in the tens of billions if we take a cumulative count of sales over the last four years. These networks, which belong to the customers and their lenders, will need to be supported.  There is ongoing business here for someone.

ZTE holds the No.1 or No. 2 markets share position on many of the core infrastructure projects of the big three carriers in China -- China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom.

All of ZTE's product segments were growing. Here are the 2017 annual growth rates:

  • Carrier networks 8.3%
  • Gov't and corporate 10.4%
  • Consumer 5.2%


Outside of China, ZTE has many current sales contracts and open purchase orders for new equipment, with good prospects of upcoming fibre broadband, 4G, 4G, and core network projects. 

ZTE has a very extensive telecom equipment portfolio, covering every sector of wireless networks, core networks, access & bearer networks, services and terminals. 

ZTE has been listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange since 1997 and on the Hong Kong Exchange since 2004. Trading has been suspended since April 16 and so there is no way to know quite yet if the shares are now worthless. The company's balance sheet at the end of 2017 showed RMB 31.647 billion in current assets, and the company's most recent statement said it was conserving cash.

ZTE has abundant in-house and contracted production facilities capable of manufacturing large volume of smartphones, customer premise equipment, and carrier infrastructure products. 

ZTE has many current and next-generation product designs using the latest silicon from U.S., Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and other international suppliers. The product designs could be sold to other equipment suppliers.

ZTE has a considerable patent portfolio. ZTE claims to amongst the most prolific corporate patent filers in recent years. As of 30-June-2017, ZTE Group 68,000 patents, including 29,000 granted global patents.

As of mid-2017, the company was operating 20 R&D centres in China, the United States, Sweden, France, Japan and Canada, as well as more than 10 joint innovation centres established in association with leading carriers.

There is a talented pool of 74,773 employees (including 58,940 as employees of the parent company), with an average age of 33. Many of these employees have deep subject matter expertise, the vast majority of whom had nothing to do with the business decisions that got ZTE into trouble. 

ZTE was gearing up for a big play in 5G

At this year's  Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ZTE captured the “Best Technology Innovation for 5G" award for its end-to-end vision encompassing the radio access network, the core network, bearer platforms, custom 5G silicon and CPE terminals. As with other suppliers, many of these are “works in progress” rather than commercially deployable solutions right now.

ZTE's has pushed hard on Massive MIMO, the antenna technology which has been shown to improve spectral efficiency up to 8 times.

It has been pioneering a multi-user shared access (MUSA) technology to effectively increase the number of connections served, and thereby enable support for scenarios involving mass connectivity with low power consumption. This could be extremely useful in very crowded areas, such as subway systems, when everyone is using their smartphone. The MUSA technology works by allowing high overload and eliminating scheduling operations, thereby increasing the number of connections by between 3- and 6-fold. It uses advanced spread spectrum sequence and SIC technology to simplify terminal implementation and help reduce energy consumption.

In the network core, ZTE is ready to commercialize end-to-end 5G network slicing. Its Cloud ServCore platform implements lightweight micro-service components to enable the network slices to operate independently and with easy scalability. This will allow IoT applications, for instance, to scale smoothly and without impacting other network slices.

ZTE is also readying a 5G Flexhaul bearer solution based on next-gen FlexE technology. Part of this vision to achieve a unified bearer network for 3G / 4G / 5G traffic. ZTE says its 5G Flexhaul achieves end-to-end protection switching time of less than 1ms, as well as single node forwarding latency of less than 0.5μs.




ZTE was a $20 billion company on the rise

Prior to receiving the death sentence for sanctions violations and lying to the U.S. government during a probationary period, ZTE was profitable and on a $20 billion per year sales run rate.

For Q1 2018, the company reported revenue of RMB 28.879 billion (US$5.548 billion), up 12% over the same period in 2017. Net profit after extraordinary items attributable to holders of ordinary shares of the listed company amounted to RMB 1.368 billion (US$216 million). For the full year 2017, ZTE reported operating revenue of RMB 108.82 billion, 7.49% higher than a year earlier,  

Net profit for 2017 was reported at RMB 4.55 billion, an increase of 293%. Net cash flow from operating activities for 2017 was approximately RMB 6.78 billion, about 28.88% year-on-year growth. This was a quite a recovery from 2016, when revenues grew just 4% and profits were lower. With booming handset sales in China, India and other developing markets, along with good prospects for 5G, things were looking pretty good for ZTE, until its troubles with the long-running exports violation case came to a head.

Big fine in 2017

ZTE's 2017 results were impacted by troubles with the U.S. government. In March 2017, ZTE made penalty payments of over US$1.19 billion to the U.S. government-- this too for the case involving the shipment of U.S.-origin technology to Iran during the period of economic sanctions. ZTE plead guilty in the case and paid the fine. It also agreed to a number of other conditions, which were not fulfilled, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, or which ZTE subsequently lied about. 

Huawei as the beneficiary? 

ZTE generates about 40% of its revenue abroad. 

We can surmise that many of the large carrier projects that ZTE currently has underway internationally will have been funded by the Bank of China,  the China Development Bank (CDB), or other government-backed, export/import financial institutions. These carrier customers are facing the prospect of suspended or canceled projects. This presents an opportunity for other network vendors to step in and capture the business. 


However, the customer would need to secure another funding source. Huawei is the most likely to be the ZTE replacement, especially if the Bank of China or CDB were to transfer project loans on their behalf. Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and others also have an opening to entice these ZTE carrier customers with their offerings.

But what if Huawei is next?

However,  it is conceivable that the Trump administration will ratchet up the pressure on Huawei, for instance by extending all of parts of the ZTE export ban to them, or by persuading other governments to block Huawei as has been done in the U.S.. Many analysts expected that the ZTE ban was a bargaining chip in the recent, first round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China. There was, and perhaps continues to be, hope that the order would be rescinded after the trade talks. This did not happen. Perhaps the trade tensions will get worse, with Huawei coming under pressure next.

With this possibility at hand, some large carriers in countries such as Japan, Germany or Singapore, may rethink their future plans with Chinese equipment vendors in general on critical projects so as not to face supply disruptions like we now see with ZTE. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom recently announced a 5G pilot deployment in Berlin using Huawei equipment. In the U.S., T-Mobile is prohibited from using Huawei as a supplier. With T-Mobile now seeking to merge with Sprint, U.S. regulators conceivably could require the German parent company to remove all Huawei gear from all of its networks as a condition for approving the merger. 

In other countries, there will be other geopolitical considerations. In Russia, ZTE has just clinched a 70% share of the first stage of  Rostelecom's the access network modernization project. ZTE's Multi-Service Access Network (MSAN) product delivers VDSL. Rostelcom is currently testing G.vectoring and G.fast for deployment in a second stage of its upgrade project. Rostelecom, of course, is Russia's leading broadband and pay-TV provider with over 12.7 million fixed-line broadband subscribers and over 9.7 million pay-TV subscribers, over 4.7 million of which are subscribed to its IPTV service. Given the need for Rostelcom to complete this network upgrade successfully, on-time and on budget, they will look for other suppliers.. but probably not from the U.S.

In India, ZTE is now a major supplier of low-cost smartphones and optical transmission gear. In October 2017, ZTE announced a 100G WDM Backbone Network Project and metro area network (MAN) construction contract with Idea Cellular, the third largest mobile operator in India with 189 million subscribers. With this deal, ZTE’s OTN optical transport platform captured a 95% share in the metro optical backbones that carry Idea Cellular’s traffic. ZTE has previously disclosed major contracts with Bharti Airtel as well. This success comes despite some protectionist voices in India warning against Chinese suppliers for critical network infrastructure.

Other recent contract wins include the Ooredoo Group, which serves 164 million customers across the Middle East, and South Africa based MTN. For Ooredoo Group, ZTE was expected to supply end-to-end networks, applications, and terminals in preparation for a 5G launch. MTN was also looking at deploying ZTE’s 5G NR radio access, 5G virtualized network slicing, carrier DevOps and container-based vEPC, and 5G Flexhaul bearer network.

The ZTE effect on suppliers

For those companies who were supplying chipsets, optical components, memories, display technologies, protocol stacks, etc. to ZTE, there will be a waiting game to see who takes up the slack. We can presume that the size and growth of the market will remain the same before and after this incident. If ZTE doesn't supply that core router, someone else will. 

What comes next?

The ZTE statement about ceasing normal activities holds out a glimmer of hope that the U.S. government might hear an appeal and grant a reprieve. Last week, U.S. trade negotiators visited China. Obviously, no deal occurred or ZTE would not have made its statement. 

Whatever comes next, it better happen quickly because sales contracts and talented employees will not stick around to what eventually emerges. The best people and ideas will move on to competitors or new ventures.

The most likely outcome is that ZTE individual business units are sold off, spun out, or otherwise reorganised into new corporate entities. In other words, the same cast of characters with the same products but operating under a new name.

ZTE: Major operating activities have ceased

ZTE stated that "the major operating activities of the Company have ceased" due to the export ban imposed on it by the U.S. Commerce Department' Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

The announcement was made in a regulatory filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Trading of the company's shares have been suspended since April 16th.

ZTE also said that it is actively communicating with the U.S. government in order to secure a reversal of the ban.

http://res.www.zte.com.cn/mediares/zte/Investor/20180509/E1.pdf


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Three weeks in, ZTE appeals to U.S. Commerce Dept as shares remain suspended

ZTE has appealed to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to lift the ban on the export of U.S. products to the company, according to a regulatory filing made by ZTE to the Hong Kong exchange. There is no word on whether the appeal will be heard or acted upon by BIS.

Meanwhile, trading of ZTE's shares on the Hong Kong market remain suspended since April 16th.

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