Huawei plans to divest budget phone unit Honor: reports

Besieged by U.S. tech sanctions, Huawei may be looking to shake up its smartphone business that has taken a hit after losing core semiconductor parts and software services.

The Chinese giant is in talks with Digital China Group to sell parts of Honor, its low-end, budget phone unit, for 15-25 billion yuan ($2.2-3.7 billion), Reuters reported on Wednesday. 

A Hong Kong-listed firm, Digital China is a spin-off from the Legend Group (later Lenovo) and a major distributor and close ally of Huawei.

Smartphone sales and other consumer-facing electronics today make up the bulk of revenue for Huawei, which began by selling telecommunications gear in the late 1980s.

The news came days after a Chinese tech news blogger claimed Huawei is planning to sell Honor. Respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also noted in a report that it’s in Huawei’s benefit to divest Honor so the business could be free of trade restrictions and Huawei gets to focus on high-end phones under its namesake brand.

Sources close to Huawei denied the planned sale of Honor, Tencent News reported last week. A Huawei representative contacted by TechCrunch declined to comment.

Huawei rolled out independent brand Honor in 2011 as Xiaomi’s low-budget phones were taking China by storm. Like Xiaomi, Honor started out by focusing on online sales and young consumers. BBK Group’s Oppo, Vivo and Realme have since made significant inroads into the budget phone market.

Honor’s brand, research and development capabilities and related supply chain management business could be for sale, sources told Reuters. The tech news blogger said Honor will operate and procure independently after the sale.

Other bidders include Xiaomi and TCL, according to Reuters, as well as Gree and BYD, according to the tech news blogger.