ZTE appoints chief export compliance officer as US sanctions set to be enforced

Chinese telecoms equipment group hires former EY and KPMG consultant Matthew Bell into newly created position as latest extension to US trade ban deadline nears on Nov 28

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 5:51pm

Faced with lingering uncertainty over US trade restrictions, ZTE Corp has appointed former EY and KPMG consultant Matthew Bell to the company’s newly created position of chief export compliance officer.

“His appointment reflects our commitment to further strengthening our international compliance programme in order to ensure it ... not only meets but exceeds the requirements under applicable laws and regulations in all global markets,” ZTE chairman and president Zhao Xianming said on Tuesday.

China’s largest listed telecommunications equipment manufacturer was slapped with export restrictions by the Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce in March for violating long-standing trade sanctions against Iran.

The restrictions require ZTE’s American suppliers of components and other products to apply for a licence to ship those items to the company.

“A licence review policy of presumption of denial shall apply” in that situation, ZTE said.

On March 24, the bureau granted ZTE relief in the form of a temporary general license for a three-month period. This license has twice been extended, with the latest reprieve scheduled to end on November 28.

ZTE spokesman David Dai Shu told the South China Morning Post that the company was “still on the right track to resolving the issue with the US, as it continues to cooperate with the relevant government authorities”.

Dai said Bell, who recently worked in a compliance position at New York-listed engineering and construction firm KBR, will also serve as the chief compliance officer and legal counsel at ZTE’s US subsidiary in Texas.

Bell is expected to divide his time between ZTE’s headquarters in Shenzhen, its US base and international operations to strengthen the company’s regulatory compliance training, standards and assessments.

Paul Haswell, a partner at international law firm Pinsent Masons, said ZTE was taking a step in the right direction.

“Bell’s appointment should display to Washington and the rest of the world that ZTE is serious about complying with export rules,” Haswell said.

Business has continued to hum along for ZTE, despite the US restriction overhang. It posted a 10.5 per cent year on year increase in third-quarter net profit to 1.09 billion yuan (HK$1.23 billion), as revenue advanced 5.23 per cent to 23.8 billion yuan.