Xiaomi and Hutchison seek to deepen collaboration in Asia

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 1:25am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 1:25am

Smartphone supplier Xiaomi is looking to work closer with Hutchison Whampoa's telecommunications operations as the Beijing-based company expands into new markets in Asia.

Hugo Barra, vice-president at Xiaomi Global, said the two sides have started discussions about such a co-operation, before the launch yesterday of Xiaomi's flagship smartphone model - the Mi3 - with Three Hong Kong.

"The Hutchison group is obviously a very capable global company that operates in different markets, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, which are already in our near-term [business] roadmap," said Barra, who was hired last year by Xiaomi to lead the firm's expansion outside the mainland.

Hutchison Whampoa, the flagship conglomerate of Li Ka-shing, holds the majority interest in Hutchison Telecommunications (Hong Kong), which runs mobile network services in the city and Macau under the Three brand and fixed-line services under Hutchison Global Communications.

I really would like to extend our collaboration … we see very good potential

The conglomerate's mobile network businesses in the Asia-Pacific included those in Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Australia, where its local subsidiary has a 50 per cent stake in joint venture Vodafone Hutchison Australia.

"I really would like to extend our collaboration with Xiaomi. We see very good potential in working together in Asia," Amy Lung Pui-ying, the managing director for mobile operations at Hutchison Telecom, said.

Lung is also in charge of global mobile phone procurement for the Hutchison group's telecommunications operations worldwide.

The group's other Three-brand mobile networks are in Italy, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Ireland.

Barra said: "We are talking about collaborating deeper and deeper with Hutchison, but we are not quite ready yet for the European market."

Privately held Xiaomi, which took in US$216 million from its third round of fundraising last year, has been selling its 3G phones in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Its other partner in Hong Kong is PCCW's HKT.

Xiaomi, which is a big user of social media to promote its devices and engage customers, plans to enter Malaysia next in about two weeks.

"Based on our current ramp-up, we could ship 40 million smartphones this year," Barra said.

That would be up from the 18.7 million smartphones the firm sold last year, most of which were on the mainland. Barra said Xiaomi is gearing up to do 4G smartphones to meet growing demand.

Market research firm IHS forecast total 4G smartphones shipped to the mainland this year to reach 72.4 million units, while 3G smartphone shipments will remain high at 290.3 million.