Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou makes first appearance since return from Canada, as company says it’s evaluating Russia sanctions

“Huawei is deeply concerned about this war and the suffering it has caused to the people,” rotating chairman Guo Ping said on Monday in Shenzhen, in response to a reporter’s question. “As for the [sanctions] you mentioned, we have also noticed that some countries and regions have introduced some policies. These policies and measures are complex and constantly changing, and Huawei is still in the process of careful evaluation.”

Guo’s statement was largely in line with Beijing’s stance of refraining from joining Western sanctions against Russia, while trying to avoid overt aid to Russia that could trigger secondary sanctions on Chinese companies.

He said Huawei did not have immediate plans for its HarmonyOS smartphone operating system overseas, following speculation that it could be used in Russia as an alternative to Google’s Android. Before the war, Huawei had hired engineers in Russia to help develop HarmonyOS.

Looking calm and cheerful, Meng took over her role of presenting the financial report at the start of the meeting, saying it was her first time in four years. She made a glancing allusion to her detention and court battle in Canada.

“The past four years, there have been tremendous changes in the world and in China,” she said. “In the few months that I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to catch up. I hope I will catch up.”

A Huawei spokesperson moderating Monday’s event told reporters that Meng would not answer questions about her case in Canada.

Meng’s detention in Canada at the request of US officials in December 2018 sparked a hostage standoff in which China detained two Canadian nationals, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and charged them with espionage. Meng was indicted in the United States on fraud charges related to her representation of Huawei’s relationship with an affiliate company operating in Iran, and she pleaded not guilty.

But in a deal with the US Justice Department in September 2021, she acknowledged helping to conceal the company’s direct dealings in Iran, which violated US sanctions. That month, Meng returned to China, and the “Two Michaels” returned to Canada.

Huawei said Monday its revenue fell 28.6 percent in 2021 from the previous year, as it sold off its Honor smartphone business because of the lack of chip supply under US sanctions. But the company said its profit jumped 75.9 percent thanks to the sale of part of its business and other factors, including “optimization of our product mix.”

Despite concerted efforts by the United States and its allies to stymie its global advance, Huawei remained the world’s largest telecommunications equipment vendor in 2021 by sales, with 28.7 percent market share, according to research firm Dell’Oro.

Huawei said it increased its percentage of revenue invested in research and development to 22.4 percent in 2021, its highest level in a decade.

The company has also branched into businesses that can better survive without US chips. Meng’s father, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, announced in November the launch of five new units focused on providing technology for coal mines, customs and ports, smart highways, data center energy solutions and smart photovoltaics.

On Monday, Guo said he believed the wisdom of leaders in different countries could resolve the Ukraine crisis.

“Like everyone else, Huawei hopes to see peace, cease-fire and the end of the war as soon as possible,” he said.

Pei Lin Wu contributed to this report.

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