(Adds details, background)
By Paul Sandle and Jane Barrett
LONDON May 2 The founder of China's Huawei
Technologies Co Ltd said media reports that the U.S.
National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on his company came as
no surprise, and they would not damage its reputation among its
The New York Times and Der Spiegel reported in March that
documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said
the U.S. agency accessed servers at the company's Shenzhen
headquarters to obtain sensitive data and monitor executives'
"This monitoring behaviour of the United States is within
expectations," Huawei's founder and chief executive, Ren
Zhengfei, told reporters in a rare meeting with the press in
London on Friday. "It has just been proved."
He added it was not just people in the United States who
would be interested in the activities of the group, which he has
built into the world's second-largest telecoms equipment maker
and third-biggest smartphone manufacturer.
But Ren said the reports would not damage the firm's
reputation with its major telecoms customers in Europe and Asia
in terms of the security of its products.
"The business we are doing with our customers is built on a
mutual understanding between our customers and ourselves over
the last two to three decades," he said. "Therefore, those
things going on will not, I believe, have any impact on doing
business with us.
"It is not necessary to believe this has a heavy burden and
I believe it will pass some day."
The surveillance reports came as an embarrassment for the
United States because lawmakers in the country have often voiced
security concerns about Huawei's networks, effectively shutting
the Chinese company out of the U.S. telecom gear market.
The U.S. opposition to the Chinese company, in part stemming
from Ren's background in the Red Army, has left the market to
Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Siemens
Ren said his low profile with the media - due to shyness -
had contributed to Huawei's reputation as a mysterious company.
But he has increased transparency and financial disclosure, he
said, and there was little else he could do to change minds in
the United States.
"There is not a direct linkage between being transparent and
getting access," he said. "It might take 10 or 20 years for the
United States to know Huawei is a company with integrity. We may
have opportunities then."
In the meantime, Huawei would not waste too much energy on
the U.S market, and would instead increase investment in other
areas like Europe, where its technology had been welcomed.
Ren, who set up Huawei in 1987, also ruled out a
stock-market listing, at least for the rest of his tenure,
saying the move would not help the business.
"Shareholders are greedy - they want to squeeze every bit of
the company as soon as possible," he said. "I think that's part
of the reason Huawei could catch up with, and overtake, some of
our peers in the industry."
Ren, who spent his early years in a remote mountainous town
in Guizhou Province, said he experienced the sharp end of
capitalisation when he was discharged from the army and moved to
Shenzhen to set up his own company. He lost money in early
deals, and he concluded the market economy was about cheating.
But he said he realised he could control the quality of the
products he made, a philosophy that persists in Huawei today,
and which has helped create a group with revenue of $39.5
billion last year.
To encourage loyalty and dedication, Huawei's 150,000
employees are shareholders, Ren said, an approach which would
help the group double revenue by 2018.
"Huawei's employees are also the owners," he said. "This
creates a very strong drive to boost the development of the
Ren said his focus on building a business and making money
had left little time for hobbies, or opportunities to develop
any bad habits like smoking or drinking. His one sadness, he
said, was not being able to "fulfil the feudal obligations to
Surveying a business whose equipment is in technology
deployed in more than 500 wireless networks serving billions of
people today, it must be only a small regret.
(Editing by Larry King)