Huawei smartphone spin-off Honor said to appoint new chairman as part of preparations for a potential IPO

Honor, the mobile handset business spun off from Huawei Technologies in 2020, will appoint a veteran state-owned enterprise executive as its new chairman, as the Shenzhen-based company – China’s top smartphone vendor in the third quarter – prepares for a potential public listing.

The former chairman of the Shenzhen Water and Environment Group, Wu Hui, is expected to take over as chairman at Honor, which he joined last month, according to a report on Monday by Jiemian News. The Chinese digital media outlet later deleted this report.

Wu will replace Wan Biao, a veteran executive from Huawei, who has served as Honor’s chairman since the smartphone company was spun off in November 2020.

Honor is bringing in Wu as part of efforts to pursue an initial public offering, according to the Jiemian report, which cited anonymous sources.

Wu Hui, who previously served as chairman of Shenzhen Water and Environment Group, is expected to take over as chairman at Chinese smartphone giant Honor. Photo: Baidu

Honor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Wu was named chairman of the state-owned water supply company in June 2021, according to a government notice at the time. Before that, Wu had served as an official of the Communist Party in Shenzhen and central Hubei province, and later as the party’s Vice-Secretary and the Vice-Mayor of Xianning city in Hubei, according to public records.

The report of Wu’s expected appointment comes after Honor chief executive Zhao Ming said shareholders are “expecting [the company] to diversify” its capital resources, without commenting on a potential IPO, during a media briefing last week to mark the firm’s third anniversary.

If confirmed, Honor’s plan to go public would buttress the company’s ascent to the top of China’s smartphone vendor rankings, which analysts have attributed to its diverse portfolio of handsets, bricks-and-mortar retail expansion through partners, and release of competitively-priced new models.

Shoppers are seen inside Honor’s retail store in Shanghai on July 31, 2022. Photo: Shutterstock

Honor reclaimed the top smartphone vendor spot in mainland China last quarter with an 18 per cent market share and total shipments of 11.8 million units, according to data from research firm Canalys. That comes more than a year since Honor last led the market in the first quarter of 2022, with a 20 per cent share and total shipments of 15 million.

Established in 2013, Honor’s budget-priced handsets helped Huawei overtake Apple and Samsung Electronics on the mainland, the world’s largest smartphone market. Under privately-held Huawei, Honor offered trendy low-priced smartphones that cost between US$150 and US$220.

Huawei, which was added to the US trade blacklist in May 2019 and saw tightened restrictions on access to advanced chips in 2020, sold Honor to a consortium of more than 30 agents and dealers to spare that business from sanctions. The consortium, Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology, was founded by Shenzhen Smart City Technology Development Group, which counts state-owned investment firms in the southern tech hub as its main shareholders.

Globally, Honor shipments have grown across markets in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, according to Counterpoint Research.

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