Huawei chief James Zhao opens company up to scrutiny

The Chinese company will double its marketing budget to boost smartphones sales. Photo: Lluis GeneThe new Australian chief executive of Chinese communications company Huawei says it will become less secretive and double its marketing budget to boost sales of smartphones and tablets, despite being banned from the national broadband network over spying fears.

In his first public appearance since taking the job in December, James Zhao said he would make himself and the company more open to public scrutiny and the media.

Mr Zhao is a career Huawei executive who joined the company in 2000 and headed its Indonesia arm from 2004 until 2011. He then ran Huawei’s Bharti Airtel Global account in India and Africa until his rotation into the Australian position.

His predecessor, Guo Fulin, has been moved back to a role in the company’s Chinese operations. “Gradually we can get to know each other better,” he said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “I’m paying attention to the end user and the subscribers. Because end users are the people and if the people like you then you can have more business.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed the Labor government’s ban on Huawei products on the national broadband network over concerns the equipment could be used by the Chinese government to spy.

Huawei’s reclusive founder and co-chief executive Ren Zhengfei was an officer in the People’s Liberation Army and rarely conducts interviews with Western journalists.

The new chief executive said the NBN issue was not on his radar.

“When I come here I don’t talk about this [issue] and also I do not have interest in this [issue],” he said.

Huawei chairman John Lord said most Australian governments and businesses had moved on from the NBN ban and the issue was now “dead and buried”.

“There’s always going to be a group that will continue on about the security aspect but … I think people trust Huawei now.”

Mr Lord said he was set to approve the company’s local budget in March and there would be a doubling of the company’s consumer marketing spending. The company declined to state how much the marketing budget was worth in 2013.

Mr Lord said the next annual report, in March, would show Huawei’s 2013 revenue grew 10 per cent from the $368 million reported in 2012 and the board forecasts a 10 to 12 per cent increase in 2014.

David Ramli travelled to Barcelona as a guest of Huawei.

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