Chi­nese tech gi­ants seek slice of UK phone mar­ket

Oppo and Xiaomi among the firms eye­ing moves into Bri­tain, de­spite stag­nant smart­phone sales

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Matthew Field

A CLUTCH of Chi­nese smart­phone gi­ants are scop­ing UK launches as the tech­nol­ogy gi­ants look for a slice of Bri­tain’s pre­mium phone mar­ket.

Oppo, China’s sec­ond-largest smart­phone ven­dor, qui­etly launched a UK arm in Feb­ru­ary, ac­cord­ing to fil­ings on Com­pa­nies House. The move is thought to be part of plans to launch in Europe this sum­mer.

An Oppo spokesman re­fused to com­ment on whether its phones would be com­ing to the UK, al­though he con­firmed that mul­ti­ple Euro­pean launches were on the hori­zon for later this year.

Based in Dong­guan, north of China’s an­swer to Sil­i­con Val­ley, Shen­zhen, Oppo would be the lat­est Chi­nese gi­ant to chal­lenge Europe’s smart­phone mar­ket.

“Oppo ended 2017 as a top-five smart­phone man­u­fac­turer in vol­ume terms,” CCS In­sight an­a­lyst Ben Wood told The Sun­day Tele­graph.

“The chal­lenge is build­ing a brand pres­ence in a tough mar­ket like the UK which is al­ready com­pletely sat­u­rated.”

Smart­phone sales in Europe are stag­nant, but Chi­nese ven­dors, al­though not yet house­hold names, have had some suc­cess at dis­plac­ing Ap­ple and Sam­sung as lead­ing brands in some coun­tries.

An­a­lysts see the UK as par­tic­u­larly brand-loyal to mod­els like Ap­ple’s iphone and Sam­sung’s Galaxy hand­sets, while smart­phone pur­chases are dom­i­nated by con­tracts through the ma­jor phone net­works.

De­spite the chal­lenge, Beijing-based smart­phone com­pany Xiaomi, China’s third-largest smart­phone ven­dor by vol­ume, will also ar­rive in the UK later this year through Three Mo­bile. The com­pany, which was only founded in 2012, is plan­ning a $100bn (£74bn) list­ing in Hong Kong.

Mr Wood added: “It is lit­tle sur­prise that com­pa­nies such as Oppo and Xiaomi are look­ing to ex­pand their hori­zons into West­ern Euro­pean mar­kets as they max out in their home Chi­nese mar­kets.”

Oppo is al­ready plan­ning to launch in Spain this sum­mer and is ex­pected to launch in half a dozen new Euro­pean mar­kets this year.

An­other Chi­nese chal­lenger, One­plus, is set to re­lease its lat­est smart­phone, the One­plus 6, at an event in Lon­don on Wed­nes­day evening.

The launch is un­der­stood to be ac­com­pa­nied by a ma­jor mar­ket­ing push by the Shen­zhen-based com­pany, which has found suc­cess sell­ing pre­mium smart­phones that un­der­cut mod­els from ri­vals, re­ly­ing on vi­ral mar­ket­ing and so­cial me­dia cam­paigns.

Chi­nese com­pa­nies see Europe as an at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive as they are kept from the US mar­ket by loyal iphone users and pro­tec­tion­ist pol­i­tics.

Huawei is the world’s third-largest smart­phone brand, but has largely been re­fused en­try to the US after its deals with net­works fell through over se­cu­rity fears.

But in Europe, Huawei has seen a 38pc surge in sales, de­spite fall­ing smart­phone de­mand in West­ern coun­tries.

“This is a new era for smart­phones in Europe,” said Canalys an­a­lyst Ben Stan­ton.

‘The chal­lenge is build­ing a brand pres­ence in a tough mar­ket like the UK which is al­ready com­pletely sat­u­rated’

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