Is Huawei a well-known company? In China, especially close to its home of Shenzhen near Hong Kong, certainly. But in Europe? Not really. Did you know that this leading global ICT service provider plans its future strategically by decades? Huawei can do so because it is totally employee-owned. Ren Zhengfei, the company founder, is the largest shareholder with only 1.42 percent of the total equity. The rest is held by some 80 000 of the 180 000 employees. This distance from capital markets results in strategic independence, which, when employed wisely, opens up opportunities not enjoyed by companies traded on stock markets. Huawei has the most scattered share structure in the world – this is a rare phenomenon in commercial history.
Did you know that, contrary to popular belief, Huawei is not the typical Chinese company, but has developed a unique culture that combines both Western and Eastern characteristics? Huawei’s culture is like an onion with many layers; one layer is the British culture, another layer is Chinese, and still another is American. No other company files so many patents in Europe as Huawei. With some 11 000 staff all across the Old Continent, Huawei is an integral part of Europe’s ongoing digital transformation.
The vigour with which Huawei has been accused of close connections with the Chinese military and of financial support from the Chinese Government has been increasing in parallel to Huawei’s expansion and commercial success. Indeed, company founder Ren Zhengfei did serve in the People’s Liberation Army – just as many American businessmen once served in the US Army. This “coming up from the military” is not rare in the United States, where about two-thirds of chairs and vice-chairs of Fortune 500 companies, and a third of their CEOs, have graduated from West Point. On the allegation of receiving 30 billion US dollars of support from the Chinese Government per year, Huawei, together with its auditing partner KPMG, a US-based global accounting firm, in vain tried to find out where these alleged $30 billion might have come from and where they went.
To understand how Huawei came to be one of the leading global ICT service providers, click through the following sub-sections.