COMPANY TO WATCH: ZTE/CHINA
By Gordon Platt
ZTE, the largest wireless equipment maker in China, has gained a major share of the global cell phone market. After conquering markets in Asia and Africa with its low-priced handsets, ZTE is now targeting developed markets in Europe and the Americas by introducing more-sophisticated models.
As the Hong Kong- and Shenzhen-listed telecom equipment provider extends its international reach, it is getting plenty of support from China's export-finance institutions. In May the Export-Import Bank of China provided ZTE with a $10 billion credit line. Two months earlier, China Development Bank gave the company a $15 billion credit line, including overseas project financing.
In June ZTE announced the availability of its X760 mobile phone in France through Bouygues Telecom. This is ZTE's first touch-screen handset distributed in France under its own brand. In the past the company has distributed its handsets in France through local operators without using its own name. ZTE delivers custom-made products to local operators in more than 140 countries.
ZTE recently announced a partnership agreement with Saudi Arabia-based Etihad Atheeb Telecom to build the kingdom's first nationwide network for the wireless transmission of data, known as WiMAX. ZTE also will supply related equipment. The China-based company already has deployed similar networks in 26 countries.
ZTE rang up sales of $6.4 billion in 2008, an increase of more than 27% from 2007. The company commits about 10% of annual revenue to research and development.