Western governments may be piling the pressure on Huawei but that’s not holding back its fast-growing smartphone business.
A senior executive at the Chinese tech company said Thursday that Huawei expects to displace Samsung (SSNLF) as the world’s top smartphone seller by the end of 2020. It took second place from Apple (AAPL) in the middle of last year.
“This year at the soonest, next year at the latest, we will become number one,” Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business, told reporters in Beijing.
Yu said Huawei sold over 200 million smartphones in 2018, up about 30% from the previous year. The company also sold more than 100 million smart devices, including tablets and wearables, he added.
The spike in sales resulted in revenue from Huawei’s consumer business rising to $52 billion — an increase of more than 40%.
Huawei smartphones are hugely popular in China, as well as other Asian countries like Japan, Malaysia and Thailand, according to the company’s most recent annual report. The company also features among the top three brands in countries such as the UAE, South Africa and Mexico, and its sales in Europe have been growing.
Huawei’s average selling price of around $300 is far lower than competitors like Apple and on par with Samsung, according to Counterpoint Research, giving it an advantage in growth markets like India.
Huawei’s share of Indian smartphone sales rose to 3% in the quarter ended June, up from 1% a year earlier.
But the Chinese company has been in the headlines recently because of a series of setbacks, including the arrest of one of its top executives and warnings from intelligence agencies in several countries about the security of its 5G wireless equipment.
The US government is seeking the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the company’s founder, from Canada. She was arrested in Vancouver last month at the request of the US government, which alleges that she helped Huawei dodge US sanctions on Iran.
Meng and Huawei have denied any wrongdoing.
The company’s next-generation wireless network equipment has also come under increased global scrutiny, with officials in the United States warning it could be used to spy on behalf of the Chinese government.
New Zealand and Australia have restricted the use of the company’s products in their 5G networks, and mobile providers in several countries have either blocked or are considering blocking it as well.
Huawei has repeatedly denied accusations that it works on behalf of the Chinese government, or that its equipment is a security risk. Founder Ren Zhengfei said recently that he “would rather shut Huawei down” than submit to a request to spy for China.