Will Huawei’s Extraordinary Growth Story in LATAM Come to a Grinding Halt?

Huawei has been building momentum in LATAM with record volumes and a growth of 51% year-on-year (YoY) during 2018. Its growth came at a time when the market declined by 1%. And it isn’t as if Huawei was slowing down. In Q4 2018, its volume growth reached 130%, YoY. Astonishingly, this growth came despite Huawei not being present in around 37% of the LATAM smartphone market as it does not operate in Brazil and exited Argentina in Q3 2018.

By the end of 2018, Huawei was the leader of the market in Peru and a very solid number two in Chile and Colombia. In Colombia, Huawei became the second largest brand in 2018 and also the leading Chinese brand with 24% market share after including sales of its co-brand HONOR.  HONOR entered Colombia in H2 2018, and quickly picked-up share. In Mexico, its biggest LATAM market, Huawei has been increasing volumes through a two for one mix between high and low-price band devices and recently challenged Samsung to be the number one brand in the country. Even in Peru, Huawei keeps challenging for the top spot.

Exhibit 1: Huawei LATAM Shipment Volume Share Evolution

Source: Counterpoint Research Market Monitor

Part of Huawei success in LATAM is due to its improving reputation for offering excellent quality products. Heavy spending on marketing; up to several millions of dollars yearly, in sponsorship, and both online and offline campaigns has successfully built the Huawei brand in the region.

Further, its sales team was big enough to help the brand get into all channels and carriers. Huawei even opened flagship repair stores in most of the capital cities of the biggest countries in LATAM. All these efforts were quite synchronized.

However, just as it seemed Huawei was about to reach a peak for its consumer business unit, the US government decided to impose the export ban. Under a business-as-usual scenario, Huawei’s diligent efforts to enter Brazi would likely have been successful and further boosted its presence in LATAM. But in the current geopolitical environment, entering Brazil looks increasingly unlikely. For the short-term, it will be difficult for Huawei to maintain momentum in LATAM. Counterpoint Research’s analyst team has measured the multiple impacts of the ban in LATAM and other regions, as well as other Huawei business units.  This analysis is available to all subscribing clients.