BEI­JING:

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

Xiaomi Corp. trot­ted out its lat­est mar­quee smart­phones as bil­lion­aire co-founder Lei Jun counts on the Mi5 to kick-start growth and claw back share in a slow­ing Chi­nese mar­ket. The new phone will go on sale from 1 March start­ing at ¥1,999 ($306), sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, with a faster Qual­comm Inc. Snap­dragon pro­ces­sor and fin­ger­print- reader, Lei said Wed­nes­day in Bei­jing. Xiaomi be­came the world's se­cond most-valu­able startup af­ter a 2014 fund­ing round that val­ued it at $45 bil­lion. The Mi5 will form the van­guard for Xiaomi, which is try­ing to sus­tain a me­te­oric pace of growth that saw it dis­place Ap­ple Inc. and Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics Co. from the top spot in its home mar­ket. The com­pany be­gan sell­ing phones in In­dia and is branch­ing into In­ter­net ser­vices and new gad­gets to off­set slow­ing do­mes­tic de­mand that saw it over­taken by Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co. in China. "Xiaomi should put aside con­cern about sales num­bers and mar­ket share," Lei said at the event. "Thrilling new prod­ucts and con­tin­ued sup­port from Xiaomi fans are two key is­sues we should care about." Xiaomi had been one of China's most ex­cit­ing startup sto­ries of the past few years, af­ter a fairy­tale run of growth that helped it se­cure $1.1 bil­lion in 2014 from in­vestors in­clud­ing GIC Pte., All-Stars In­vest­ment Ltd. and Rus­sia's DST. Its mar­ket share how­ever has since been pinched by com­peti­tors in­clud­ing Huawei, the coun­try's lead­ing brand in the fourth quar­ter. It sold more than 70 mil­lion smart­phones last year, fall­ing well short of tar­get and prompt­ing Lei to tell em­ploy­ees he was re­fo­cus­ing re­search ef­forts into "cool stuff" like ro­bot­ics and vir­tual re­al­ity.

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