Xiaomi CEO urges China’s smartphone industry to return to work as soon as possible

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Xiaomi Corp CEO Lei Jun urged China’s smartphone industry to return to work as soon as possible, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to disrupt economic activity across the country.

FILE PHOTO: Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun attends a product launch event of Xiaomi Mi9 Pro 5G in Beijing, China September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

He made the comments at a livestreamed product launch on Monday for the company’s new flagship Mi 10 phone series.

At the start of the event, Lei, a native of Hubei province where the virus broke out, donned a face mask to show support for effort to combat the health crisis.

“I’m from Hubei and spent four years in Wuhan in college, so my feelings for Wuhan are quite deep,” Lei said in his opening remarks.

“I believe Wuhan is a glorious city, and I believe even more that the brave and optimistic people of Wuhan can definitely fight this virus,” he added.

In December, Xiaomi opened a second headquarters in Wuhan, which currently has about 2,000 employees.

Factories and suppliers across much of China, including those in the smartphone sector, have suspended production as the country battles the coronavirus. Though travel restrictions have been eased in some areas this week, migrant workers are reportedly having trouble getting back to their jobs and many stores and shopping malls are empty or closed.

Industry analysts expect that the virus will cause smartphone shipments in mainland China to drop roughly 40% in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago, due to supply chain disruptions and flagging consumer confidence.

Xiaomi and its domestic rivals, which include Huawei Technologies Co, Oppo, and Vivo, had been hoping to boost sales in 2020 with the release of more 5G-enabled phones compatible with the country’s newly upgraded telecommunications infrastructure.

Xiaomi said in a stock exchange filing earlier on Thursday that its expects its revenue in 2019 to exceed 200 billion yuan ($28.65 billion), up from 174.9 billion yuan the previous year.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Kim Coghill

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