Feb 15, 2019 06:25 PM

Friday Tech Briefing: Huawei Moves to Placate Poland

1. Ant Financial Buys British Payments Firm WorldFirst

Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has agreed to take over London-based payment company WorldFirst. The companies didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, but The Financial Times reported earlier this month that the deal could be valued at $700 million.

WorldFirst co-founder and CEO Jonathan Quin announced the deal in a letter to clients Thursday. According to Quin, WorldFirst will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ant Financial but “will continue to operate as a U.K.-headquartered and regulated business with global operations.”

The deal marks a major foray into the European market for Ant Financial, which operates China’s largest payment service Alipay, following a setback in trying to enter the U.S. market. (Caixin)

2. Alibaba in Talks to Buy Stake in German Wholesale Giant

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba may buy a stake of German wholesaler Metro’s China operations, Reuters reported Thursday. Neither Alibaba nor Metro offered comment to Reuters.

The report, however, comes after Alibaba’s major rival, Tencent, partnered with French supermarket chain Carrefour last year.

Alibaba has been pushing more into offline retail since 2015, when it launched its own chain of tech-savvy supermarkets, Hema,. In 2017, Alibaba also purchased 36.2% of the shares of Hong Kong-listed Sun Art Retail, a major operator of Chinese hypermarkets. (Reuters, Caixin)

3. Huawei Moves to Placate Poland

Chinese telecom-equipment maker Huawei Technologies is said to be ready to work with Warsaw on steps it might take to restore trust between the two sides, Reuters reported, quoting a top American Huawei executive.

The words from Andy Purdy, chief security officer for Huawei Technologies USA, come as Warsaw is also reportedly considering excluding Huawei from bidding for work on the country’s new 5G networks.

The company's sales director for Poland was arrested last month and charged with spying in the country where he worked. The arrest occurred as Huawei was already coming under global scrutiny from a growing number of Western countries worried about its potential ties with Beijing that could be used for spying. (Reuters, Caixin)

4. 5G Is Coming — But in the Meantime, China Unicom Shores Up 4G

5G technology is on the horizon, but telecom companies are still pushing forward with 4G. ZTE, Ericsson, Nokia and controversy-embroiled Huawei all won bids to enhance China Unicom’s 4G infrastructure, the carrier announced on Wednesday.

The two biggest winners, Huawei and ZTE, will get around 50% and 30% of the total bid businesses respectively, a source close to the matter told Caixin. No winners offered less than 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion). As part of the deal, China Unicom also plans to purchase 416,000 4G base stations with the aim of developing its Internet of Things business, the company said.

Industry watchers have said that expanding 4G may enhance companies’ ability to develop 5G in the future. (Caixin)

5. iPhone Discounts in China Appear to Be Working — For Now

Chinese retailers have seen a noticeable spike in demand for some models of Apple’s iPhone after recent price cuts, Caixin learned from multiple sources.

Sales of the iPhone 8 rose significantly during the recent Spring Festival period, after prices on many online retailers’ platforms fell, the director of industry research company Mobile No. 1 Research Institute told Caixin.

E-commerce platforms including and Alibaba’s Tmall cut iPhone prices by as much as 1,500 yuan in January after Apple CEO Tim Cook blamed the company’s lackluster performance on poor sales China. Prices also dropped offline, Caixin learned from purchasing managers at multiple provincial iPhone distributors.

Times are tough for Apple in the world’s largest smartphone market. Shipments of iPhones to China have declined steadily since 2015, with domestic rivals seizing more market share from Apple. (Caixin)

6. Sina Leads $95 Million Fundraising Round for U.S. Autonomous Truck Startup

Chinese social media giant Sina has led a $95 million round of fundraising for U.S.-based autonomous truck startup TuSimple. The deal would bring TuSimple's total funding to $178 million and give it a valuation of $1 billion, the startup said in a statement on Wednesday.

Founded in 2015, TuSimple specializes in developing so-called “Level 4” fully-autonomous semi-trucks — which can drive from depot to depot without human intervention.

TuSimple currently has 12 contracted customers and it said will use the new funds to grow the fleet to over 50 trucks by June. (Caixin)

7. Alibaba ‘Delinked’ From Chinese Economy: Vice Chairman

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai said the e-commerce giant has experienced limited impact from China’s broader economic slowdown as more and more business moves to the internet.

“Our business is delinked” from the Chinese economy because “we’re in e-commerce and we’re digitizing the whole sector,” Tsai said earlier this week at the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. technology conference in San Francisco. He said the company’s growth would continue to outpace the broader economy as digital commerce expands faster than the traditional retail business.

China’s economy expanded 6.4% in the last three months of 2018 from a year earlier, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. Alibaba’s quarterly revenue rose 41% to 117.3 billion yuan, marking the company’s slowest growth in more than two years. (Caixin)

Compiled by Isabelle Li

Contact editor Teng Jing Xuan (

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