Mobile World Congress

Huawei distances itself from CEO comments after he goes off-script and rages at rivals over US snub

Key Points
  • Huawei has looked to distance itself after one of its top executives accused its rivals of playing politics to keep it out of the U.S. market, in response to a question by CNBC.
  • Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei's consumer business, accused rivals of playing politics to keep them out of the U.S. market.
  • Huawei was supposed to sell its Mate 10 Pro smartphone via AT&T in the U.S. but the deal fell through and intelligence officials warned Americans against buying devices made by the firm.
  • Chen Lifang, the head of communications at Huawei, said Yu was not authorized to make the comments.
Huawei consumer business CEO Richard Yu speaks about the Mate 10 Pro phone during a keynote address during CES 2018 in Las Vegas on January 9, 2018.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Image

Huawei has looked to distance itself from comments made by one of its top executives, after a CNBC question prompted him to accuse the company's rivals of playing politics to keep it out of the U.S. market.

The Chinese electronics maker was supposed to enter the market via mobile network AT&T, but the deal fell through. Then intelligence officials urged Americans not to buy phones from Huawei because they could be used to spy on people.

At Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, CNBC asked Richard Yu, the head of Huawei's consumer business, at a media roundtable about his thoughts on the company's issues in the U.S.

While Yu was there to speak about the company's latest laptop device, the MateBook X Pro, the executive went off-script for several minutes, calling developments in the U.S. "ridiculous" and "unfair." He blamed his rivals for playing politics to keep Huawei out of America because they are worried that it's becoming too strong.

"Our competitors are using some political way … To try to kick us out from the U.S. market but we have no issue at all. We are transparent … We are a leading high-tech, innovative company," Yu said on Sunday. "But they cannot compete with us on product, on technology, on innovation, so they compete with us (using) politics."

But the public communications team at Huawei did not sanction the comments and have sought to distance the company from Yu's strong words.

"It's not right to blame the other party for not accepting us, we can only try harder, maintain our openness and transparency and wait until the other party is willing to communicate with us," Chen Lifang, Huawei's head of communications, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

Huawei's big plans for growth

Chen said that Huawei does not agree with Yu's views.

Huawei is yet to respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC.

The Chinese company is better known for making networking equipment but in recent years has aggressively grown its consumer business. In a short time, the company has become the third-largest smartphone player by market share behind Apple and Samsung. In the same briefing where Yu made the comments about the U.S., he said that he thinks Huawei could surpass Apple within a couple of years.