China telecoms giant Huawei CFO arrested in Canada

In this July 4, 2018, file photo, the Huawei logo is seen at a Huawei store at a shopping mall in Beijing. (AP)
Updated 06 December 2018
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China telecoms giant Huawei CFO arrested in Canada

  • US authorities have been probing Huawei since 2016 for allegedly shipping US-origin products to Iran in violation of US export and sanctions laws

VANCOUVER/WASHINGTO: Canada has arrested Chinese telecoms giant Huawei’s global chief financial officer in Vancouver, where she is facing extradition to the United States, Canada’s Department of Justice said on Wednesday.
The arrest is related to violations of US sanctions, a person familiar with the matter said. Reuters was unable to determine the precise nature of the violations.
Sources told Reuters in April that US authorities have been probing Huawei, one of the world’s largest makers of telecommunications network equipment, since at least 2016 for allegedly shipping US-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of US export and sanctions laws.
Meng Wanzhou, who is one of the vice chairs on the company’s board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested on Dec. 1 and a court hearing has been set for Friday, a Canadian Justice Department spokesman said.
Huawei confirmed the arrest in a statement and said that it has been provided little information of the charges, adding that it was “not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng.”
China’s embassy in Canada said it resolutely opposed the arrest and called for Meng’s immediate release.
The arrest could drive a wedge between China and the United States just days after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping held a meeting in Argentina where they agreed to steps to resolve a trade war.
The sources said in April the US Justice Department probe is being run out of the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
The US Justice Department on Wednesday declined to comment. A spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn also declined to comment.
The probe of Huawei is similar to one that threatened the survival of China’s ZTE Corp. , which pleaded guilty in 2017 to violating US laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran.
Earlier this year, the United States banned American firms from selling parts and software to ZTE, which then paid $1 billion this summer as part of a deal to get the ban lifted.
In January 2013, Reuters reported that Hong Kong-based Skycom Tech Co. Ltd, which attempted to sell embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator, had much closer ties to Huawei than previously known.
Meng, who also has gone by the English names Cathy and Sabrina, served on the board of Skycom between February 2008 and April 2009, according to Skycom records filed with Hong Kong’s Companies Registry.
Several other past and present Skycom directors appear to have connections to Huawei.
The news about the arrest comes the same day Britain’s BT Group said it was removing Huawei’s equipment from the core of its existing 3G and 4G mobile operations and would not use the Chinese company in central parts of the next network.
The handset and telecommunications equipment maker said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and US and other regulations.
The Huawei statement said Meng was detained when she was transferring flights in Canada.
Her arrest drew a quick reaction in Washington.
US Senator Ben Sasse praised the action and said that it was “for breaking US sanctions against Iran.” He added: “Sometimes Chinese aggression is explicitly state-sponsored and sometimes it’s laundered through many of Beijing’s so-called ‘private’ sector entities.”
US stock futures and Asian shares tumbled as news of the arrest heightened the sense a major collision was brewing between the world’s two largest economic powers, not just over tariffs but also over technological hegemony.
While investors initially greeted the trade cease-fire that was agreed in Argentina with relief, the mood has quickly soured on skepticism that the two sides can reach a substantive deal.
S&P500 e-mini futures were down almost 2 percent at one point in thin Asian morning trade on Thursday. 


Ahmed Al-Habtoor: Portrait of a driven auto executive

Updated 19 May 2019
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Ahmed Al-Habtoor: Portrait of a driven auto executive

  • There is no country on this planet where you will see Bentleys, McLarens and Bugattis as much as in the UAE.

DUBAI: Over the course of a morning in his office in Deira, Dubai’s traditional business district, Ahmed Al-Habtoor talked eloquently and expertly about the motor business in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf, about customers’ likes and dislikes, about the tough times the industry has faced recently, about his best-selling models, and about the importance of the sector within the UAE economy.
Then, he dropped a small bombshell. He is always chauffeurdriven, and seldom gets behind the wheel of any of the luxury vehicles he trades daily. “I don’t care about driving cars, I care about selling them,” he revealed.
From the youthful chief executive officer of Al Habtoor Motors, who could have his pick of Bugattis, Bentleys, McLarens and other “fast boys toys,” that was quite a revelation.
“I don’t like driving, I like to be on my phone checking emails and messages. I don’t have the patience to look for parking, and anybody who can afford to have a driver should do so,” he added.
So Al-Habtoor is, in more senses than one, a driven executive. The motor division is a key part of the Al Habtoor conglomerate, started by his father, the group chairman Khalaf, in the 1970s as an engineering business but which has expanded through real estate, hotels and hospitality, to education and entertainment.
Motors has been an integral pillar of the Habtoor portfolio since it was set up in 1983 to handle the Mitsubishi franchise in the UAE. “We have strict corporate governance, law, a constitution in the company. The rules are set and we are here to implement the directions of the chairman. We have our own ideas, we try to be creative, but it is a well-established, solid company with very strong roots,” he said.
here is still a large number of workers — whom he called “partners” — who can date their employment back to the very beginning of the Mitsubishi franchise.
He admits to two alternative frustrations in his job, depending on the economic climate.
“When the market is active and business is fantastic, I get frustrated at the pressure of delivering to my clients. I’m just busy, trying to meet the expectation of delivering the right product at the right time,” he explained. “The other frustration is when the market is challenging and low, I’m busy trying to be busy, trying to find business. It’s all about being busy.”
For the past few years, the “challenging” market has been to the fore, as he candidly admitted. The fall in the oil price in 2014-15 began to affect the economies of the energy exporters of the Arabian Gulf toward the end of the following year, and the motor sector was seriously hit. Sales volumes declined sharply — compounded by government spending cuts and some policy decisions.
“I think in 2017 the volume was acceptable. In 2018, it dropped when the government implemented VAT. I don’t think VAT was the wrong decision, but it had a negative effect. It was implemented when the market was in a weak situation. If the market was booming, it would have been much easier for us,” he said.
Al Habtoor Motors’ longevity gives its CEO a perspective on the forces that shape the industry. “It’s a cycle. There is always a cycle every 6-8 years. When oil prices started to fall it had an effect. In our region, government spending is the key to moving the economy. Not only in Dubai, but the whole of the UAE.”
He estimated that the motor industry was the second biggest sector in the UAE’s non-oil economy, behind real estate, but saw no real linkage in the simultaneous downturns in property and motor sales.
The other factor that affected car sales — especially in the high volume and fleet car business — was the increasing reluctance of banks in the UAE to continue previous levels of finance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) during the worst of the downturn.

“It was not a very wise decision to withdraw support from SMEs. The economy depends on large companies, but at the end of the day, consumption comes out of the (medium) and small businesses. Uncertainty and insecurity in the market made a lot of people stay away from buying,” he said.
Al-Habtoor estimated that car sales volumes in the fleet business were down by 50 percent from the highs of 2015, as they were across the whole of the volume motor business. “Last year was very challenging, but thankfully we managed all the challenges,” he said, on the back of an upturn in business measured across the whole of last year.
He has reason to be more optimistic in the current year. “There has been stimulus to the economy, Expo 2020, and the confidence in the market improved. The changes to visa arrangements, the reduction of license fees — all these are having an effect,” he said.
On the “Expo effect” — the expected boost to the UAE economy from the huge business fair planned for next autumn — he was cautiously positive. “We’ve seen that coming through already. Now it is nominal, but we are seeing green shoots. It is not a big effect yet but it is happening, and the more we go toward October next year the more benefit will come,” Al-Habtoor said, adding that he was confident of getting back to 2015 levels eventually.
That is good news for the Mitsubishi, Fuso, Jac and Chery marks that are Habtoor’s staple. But the group also has an impressive stable of luxury cars, with the dealerships for Bentley, the McLaren sports brand, and the super-car Bugatti, in the UAE
The UAE’s reputation for glamorous, extravagant cars — even down to the Dubai police fleet — is a global phenomenon, and Al-Habtoor does not think it will change any time soon, even in challenging economic circumstances.
“A lot of people want beautiful cars and the best. It always was like that, it still is now and it will be in the future. The UAE and Dubai is always about the best. It’s in the culture of the city. There is no country on this planet where you will see Bentleys, McLarens and Bugattis as much as in the UAE,” he said.
The economics are different in the luxury brands, which were not as badly hit by the oil-related slump as the volume business. “The luxury end was affected by the downturn, but it’s more resilient, it’s OK,” he said.
“In the first four months of this year, we’re the number one dealer in the world for Bentley, and have consistently been among the biggest Bentley dealers in the world, if not the biggest. When luxury goods are moving, not just cars, but jewelry and other things, I feel that the economy will come back soon,” he said.
Bentley sales have been given a boost by the introduction at the end of last year of a new Continental GT, and by the continued appeal of the Bentayga, the company’s first move into the SUV market, which has huge appeal for motorists in the region. Deliberately priced at below 1 million dirhams ($272,250), the luxury SUV aims to take on other upmarket four-wheel-drive vehicles.
He seemed especially pleased with the performance of the McLaren range within his portfolio, vying with other more famous brands in the lucrative but very competitive sports car segment — another best seller in the region.
At the top end, McLaren competes with the best in the sports car market, and its BP23 model sells at more than 10 million dirhams. “There are only 116 vehicles around the world and we have six of them. In that ultimate series sector, McLaren is dominating,” Al-Habtoor said.
Then there is Bugatti, the French super-sports car whose Chiron model is one of the most expensive seen on the UAE’s roads, selling at around 12 million dirhams. Last year, the company sold 12 of them, Al-Habtoor said, but any ideas that McLaren is competing with, and cannibalizing sales, of Bugatti were dismissed.
“That’s like comparing a normal plane with a UFO. I once drove a Bugatti on a track at over 200km and it was as if I was having a picnic in the garden — you don’t even feel it,” he said.
Occasional high-speed track driving, apparently, is one of the few occasions he likes to give the chauffeur a day off.