China's Huawei sees strong smartphone growth in southeast Asia

A worker adjusts the logo at the stand of Huawei at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover March 15, 2015. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen

BANGKOK (Reuters) - China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], the world’s No. 2 telecom equipment maker, expects total shipments of smartphones in southeast Asia to rise 160 percent to 8 million units in 2015, boosted by strong demand in Myanmar, it said on Thursday.

In the first quarter, Huawei posted a 120 percent increase in smartphone shipments in the region, one of the most promising markets in the world, Thomas Liu, President for Huawei’s southeast Asian consumer business group, told reporters.

Liu was in Bangkok on Thursday to launch its flagship P8 smartphones in Thailand, the second largest market in southeast Asia.

Myanmar, once one of the world’s least-connected nations, has grown to become Huawei’s biggest market in the region, with a share of more than 50 percent, Liu said.

To tap strong growth in the region, the Shenzhen-based company aims to work closely with local partners and distributors and plans to open up to 1,500 customer service centers, Kevin Ho, president for the handset product line, said.

The launch of P8, which runs on Google Inc’s Android operating system, is likely to spark fiercer competition in the Thai handset market.

Earlier this month, China’s Xiaomi Technologies [XTC.UL] joined with Thailand’s largest mobile operator Advanced Info Service to sell its first smartphone, dubbed the Xiaomi Mi4, online in the country.

Market researcher IDC said on Thursday it expects sales of smartphones in Thailand to grow by 29 percent to boost the number of smartphone users to 36 million by the end of this year.

Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by David Holmes