Best Buy to cease US sales of Huawei phones, report says
Best Buy, the largest US electronics retailer, is reportedly set to halt the sale of Huawei phones from its online and offline shelves, dealing a further blow to the handset maker after carrier AT&T pulled out of a deal to distribute its latest smartphone in the US earlier this year.
Best Buy has ceased ordering new smartphones from Huawei and will wind down its distribution of the company’s products over the next few weeks, according to a CNET report on Wednesday, citing an unnamed source familiar with the situation.
“Huawei values the relationship it has with Best Buy and all our other retail partners. As a policy, we do not discuss the details of our partner relationships,” Huawei said in a statement on Thursday.
Best Buy did not immediately respond to an email query.
Huawei Technologies, the world’s third biggest smartphone vendor, has struggled to gain access to the US smartphone market amid security concerns related to the company’s ties with the Chinese government.
Security concerns were widely reported to have prompted AT&T to walk away from a smartphone distribution deal with Huawei ahead of the Chinese firm’s launch of its flagship Mate 10 Pro handset at the CES trade show in Las Vegas in January. Later it was reported that Verizon Communications also abandoned plans to distribute Huawei smartphones in the US.
“Our products are sold by 46 of the top 50 global operators, and we have won the trust and confidence of individuals and organisations in 170 countries around the world. We are committed to earning that same trust with US consumers and making our products accessible in as many ways as possible,” Huawei said in a statement on Thursday.
During the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, Ken Hu Houkun, Huawei’s chief executive said the security concerns were groundless, and highlighted the company’s track record of servicing more than 400 telecom operators globally in the past 30 years.
The Australian Financial Review reported in February that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was briefed on US concerns about Chinese involvement in 5G networks by the heads of the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Best Buy is facing financial pressure and has announced it will shut all 250 of its physical smartphone stores across the US by May 31.
Huawei phones, along with its related brand Honor, are still available for purchase on Best Buy’s website, although some models are sold out. The Honor handsets are available for immediate pick up at Best Buy’s offline retail stores, while the Mate series handsets are available pending free shipment and pickup at offline retail stores.
Chinese telecom equipment provider and smartphone marker, ZTE, has been banned from selling its telecom products in the US. The company ranks as the fourth largest smartphone vendor in the US, after Apple, Samsung and LG. ZTE phones remain listed on Best Buy websites and available via free shipment.
Richard Yu Chengdong, the chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business group, said earlier this year that certain governments worry that the company has “become too strong”. He also said some competitors, which he did not name, stood to benefit from Huawei’s exclusion from the US market.
However, Chen Lifang, Huawei corporate senior vice-president and head of communications, said in a subsequent interview that Yu’s views were his own, and did not represent those of Huawei.
“We have to be patient with the US as the [issue] cannot be solved unilaterally,” Chen said in the interview.
Huawei is offering its flagship Mate 10 Pro model for pre-order at a sharp discount to US consumers, after failing to establish distribution through a major American mobile network operator.
The Mate 10 Pro’s US$799.99 price tag, available by pre-order from February 5, makes it significantly than in the euro zone where it costs 799 euros (US$995), or in China, where it sells for 5,399 yuan (US$856).
“Mate 10 Pro has sold much better than expected in the US,” Yu said last month, without elaborating sales figures.