Huawei a key beneficiary of China subsidies that US wants ended

Monument to wealth: Huawei’s new campus in southern China. (Supplied)
Updated 30 May 2019

Huawei a key beneficiary of China subsidies that US wants ended

BEIJING: A replica of the Palace of Versailles, medieval turrets and spires rise across Huawei’s new campus in southern China, a monument to the telecom giant’s growing fortune — and the benefits of state aid.
The fairytale-like facilities rest on land that was sold by the local government at cut-rate prices to woo and bolster a strategic, high-tech company like Huawei.
It is the kind of government largesse that has fanned US frustrations at China’s industrial policies — subsidies are a sticking point in protracted trade talks between the world’s top two economies.
Huawei has become a major flashpoint in the trade war, with President Donald Trump taking steps to block the company’s dealings with US companies, threatening its global ambitions.
With the dispute shining a spotlight on China’s technological shortcomings, the subsidies are a window into the kind of measures Beijing may step up as trade negotiations founder.
Huawei’s annual reports and public records show that it has received hundreds of millions of dollars in grants, heavily subsidised land to build facilities and apartments for loyal employees, bonuses to top engineers, and massive state loans to international customers to fund purchases of Huawei products.
“Below market price land sales, massive targeted R&D grants, and export financing on terms that are more favorable than what Huawei could get from the private sector collectively appear to provide significant subsidies that other countries could challenge at the WTO if they are harming domestic companies,” said Claire Reade, a former assistant US trade representative.
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei had denied that the company received subsidies in a BBC interview in February, but a Huawei spokeswoman later said Ren meant the firm did not receive any special government aid.
“Like other companies, Huawei receives research subsidies from governments in several jurisdictions,” the spokeswoman told AFP.
Over the past 10 years, Huawei has received 11 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in grants, according to its annual reports.
More than half was given by China as “unconditional government grants” because of the firm’s “contributions to the development of new high-technology” in China, according to Huawei’s 2009 annual report.
Even some of Huawei’s top engineers receive bonuses through government programs: More than 100 of them received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city of Shenzhen last year.
Heavily subsidised land is often used by local governments in China to bring in companies.
Huawei’s European-inspired campus was zoned for research by the Dongguan city government, and because of Huawei’s status as a top Chinese company, it received the 127 hectares of land at about one-tenth the cost of nearby residential land.
The city also sold bargain-rate lakeside land to the firm to build upwards of 20,000 employee apartments around its campus in a series of engineered auctions producing a single bidder: a Huawei subsidiary.
From 2015 to 2018, the subsidiary picked up 46 ha for about one-sixth the going rate, suggesting Huawei saved as much as ($2.4 billion) on the purchases.
Asked about the subsidised land, a company spokeswoman said that Huawei contributed to Dongguan’s economic development and pays taxes.
At the Huawei Lakeside Garden complex, Huawei employees who stick around for three years and meet other metrics will be able to buy their apartments at about one-third of the price their neighbors pay.
Outside China, the country’s state policy banks have provided financing to boost Huawei’s sales to the developing world — at times leaving the state on the hook when risky loans go bad.
Huawei inked a $10 billion credit line with the China Development Bank (CDB) in 2004 to provide low-cost financing to customers buying its telecom gear. It was tripled to $30 billion in 2009.
China’s demand for infrastructure, including communications and Internet gear, is not as high as it used to be, said CDB President Zheng Zhijie, so “what can we do with the excess production capacity? We can only send it abroad.”
“We may give you loans to buy Chinese equipment or materials, but there must be a Chinese element,” Zheng said.
Brazilian telecom firm Telemar Norte Leste obtained a $500 million CDB loan in 2009 with a two-year grace period on principal payments at a well-below-market interest rate to buy Huawei gear. This type of loan is known as export credit and primarily regulated under an OECD arrangement incorporated into the WTO.
But China has refused to sign on or abide by its rules, said Kristen Hopewell, an expert at the University of Edinburgh, adding the credit line for Huawei could be in violation of those rules.
Since 2015 China has provided more funding each year to support its exports than the OECD’s 36 member-nations combined, according to US Export-Import Bank data.

FASTFACTS

Huawei’s top engineers receive bonuses through government programs, with more than 100 receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city of Shenzhen last year.


HSBC France to leave its Champs Elysees headquarters

Updated 38 min 15 sec ago

HSBC France to leave its Champs Elysees headquarters

  • HSBC France has a project of moving its headquarters by 2020
  • The building would be fit for 1,200 employees working mostly in corporate and investment banking and wealth management

PARIS/LONDON: HSBC France said on Wednesday its teams will leave a prestigious headquarters on Paris' Champs Elysees avenue by 2020 in an emblematic move ahead of the planned sale of its retail business in the country.
The exit and planned sale, following a strategic review of the group's French retail activities, are part of a broader cost-cutting effort under interim Chief Executive Noel Quinn.
"HSBC France has a project of moving its headquarters by 2020 to 38 av Kleber, 500 meters away from its actual headquarters that was sold in 2010," the bank said in a statement.
The building would be fit for 1,200 employees working mostly in corporate and investment banking and wealth management.
Another 500 employees will be moved to HSBC's hub in La Defense business district which now houses 4,000 of the bank's employees and to branches close to the Champs Elysees building.
HSBC France sold its headquarters at 103 avenue Champs Elysees, and a building in front of it at 15 rue Vernet, to Qatari investors and has rented them since then.
The move is necessitated because the owner wants to regain control of the buildings and also because HSBC needs to save money, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Office rents in Paris are rising to levels not seen since at least 2003, according to Immostat data, as vacancy rates are at record lows.
HSBC inherited the historic headquarters when it bought the French retail operations of Crédit Commercial de France (CCF) in 2000.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was a hotel where World War One spy and exotic dancer Mata Hari was arrested.
HSBC Holdings has hired U.S. investment bank Lazard Ltd to sell its French retail business, a source close to the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
Quinn is expected to unveil the first details of his strategic overhaul of the bank when it reports third-quarter earnings on Oct. 28.
Quinn is auditioning for the full-time CEO job and insiders said he is under pressure to take decisive action after Chairman Mark Tucker indicated his predecessor John Flint had not moved quickly enough to turn around the lender's performance.