China’s ZTE proposes $10.7 billion credit proposal, new board

Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE last week agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to the US government. (Reuters)
Updated 14 June 2018
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China’s ZTE proposes $10.7 billion credit proposal, new board

HONG KONG: Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp. has proposed a $10.7 billion financing plan and nominated eight board members in a drastic management overhaul, as it seeks to rebuild a business crippled by a US supplier ban.
The news, announced late on Wednesday, indicates China’s No.2 telecom equipment maker is working toward meeting the conditions laid out by the US so it could resume business with American suppliers, who provide about 25-30 percent of the components used in ZTE’s equipment.
Investors cheered the development, driving up ZTE’s Hong Kong-listed shares as much as 3.7 percent on Thursday morning, outperforming the Hang Seng Index that dipped slightly.
A day earlier, its shares plunged a record 41 percent in Hong Kong and 10 percent in Shenzhen, wiping out almost $3 billion off embattled ZTE’s market value, as it resumed trading after being suspended for almost two-months due to the US ban.
The US imposed the seven-year supplier ban on ZTE in April after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade US sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
ZTE last week agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to the US government. The ban will, however, not be lifted until ZTE places another $400 million in an escrow account in a US-approved bank for 10 years.
ZTE was also ordered to radically overhaul its management and hire a US-appointed special compliance coordinator.
As part of the agreement, ZTE needs to replace its 14-person board and fire all members of its leadership at or above the senior vice president level, along with any executives or officers tied to the wrongdoing. The US commerce department can exercise discretion in granting exceptions.
In filings late on Wednesday, ZTE said its controlling shareholder, ZTE Holdings, had nominated 8 new board members.
This includes 5 non-independent directors — Li Zixue, Li Buqing, Gu Junying, Zhu Weimin, and Fang Rong — all from state-linked firms that are shareholders or investors of ZTE Holdings, which has a 30.34 percent stake in ZTE.
Cai Manli, Yuming Bao and Gordon Ng have been nominated as independent non-executive directors.
Voting on this will take place at an AGM on June 29.
ZTE also proposed to amend a company statute at the AGM to remove a clause that required the chairman to be elected from directors or members of the senior officers of the company who have served for three years or more.
In addition, ZTE proposed to allow the board to apply for a $10.7 billion credit line, including a 30 billion yuan ($4.69 billion) from Bank of China and $6 billion from China Development Bank.
ZTE’s Shenzhen-listed shares dropped by the maximum daily permitted limit of 10 percent on mainland exchanges for a second day on Thursday.


US tariffs trigger WTO spat escalation

Updated 1 min 21 sec ago
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US tariffs trigger WTO spat escalation

GENEVA: China, Russia and the European Union are among a string of countries asking the World Trade Organization to probe new US steel and aluminum tariffs, the world trade body said Friday.
Washington is meanwhile calling the WTO to investigate a number of retaliatory duties imposed by a range of countries, the agenda for the next meeting of the organization’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) showed.
The agenda for the DSB meeting set to be held on October 29 shows that the EU, China, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Norway and Turkey plan to ask for the creation of a panel of experts to review US President Donald Trump’s decision to hit them with tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
Marking a departure from a decades-long US-led drive for free trade, Trump has justified the steep tariffs with claims that massive flows of imports to the United States threaten national security.
The tariff spat has escalated into an all-out trade war between the US and China and growing trade tensions between Washington and many of its traditional allies.
The US is meanwhile planning to request that the DSB create another set of expert panels to review the legality of retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, Canada, the EU and Mexico.
The requests, which follow rounds of failed consultations, mark and escalation in an ongoing showdown at the WTO around Trump’s controversial trade policies.
Under WTO regulations, parties in a dispute can block a first request for the creation of an arbitration panel, but if the parties make a second request, it is all but guaranteed to go through.
“Once the panel is established and composed, the EU is ready to demonstrate that the United States’ import duties are WTO-inconsistent and to obtain a ruling that condemns the US and brings relief to the EU industry,” an EU Commission spokesperson said.
The creation of a DSB panel usually triggers a long and often costly legal battle that sometimes takes years to resolve.