Xiaomi Corp. fell as much as 4.2% Wednesday after disclosing internet services revenue grew at its slowest pace in three years, prodding investors to cash in gains from the Chinese smartphone maker’s 2020 rally.
China’s No. 2 smartphone maker reported overall revenue rose 34.5% to 72.2 billion yuan ($11 billion) in the September quarter, its fastest pace of growth in two years. It grabbed market share from Huawei Technologies Co. when American sanctions deepened particularly in overseas markets from Europe to India, which yielded more than half of its revenue for the first time. But internet services like music and video grew just 8.7%, down from the previous quarter’s 29% as the Covid-19 boom in Chinese online activity tapered off.
Several brokerages cut their price targets on Xiaomi, citing its 140% run-up since the start of 2020 and warning that investors may be underestimating Huawei’s ability to remain a formidable competitor. Xiaomi’s share gains are partly based on the argument it’s one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Trump administration’s campaign to rein in Huawei and contain China’s technological ascendancy. Its unit shipments surged 42% in the third quarter globally, researcher IDC estimated, by far the best performance among brands from Samsung Electronics Co. to Apple Inc. Huawei’s own volumes plummeted 22% over that period, and it now has to defend its No. 2 position against the likes of Vivo.
Xiaomi reported a rise in adjusted net income to 4.1 billion yuan from a year earlier, beating projections for 3.3 billion yuan. Executives warned that component shortages may continue to plague Xiaomi and its peers, as factories worldwide continue to grapple with Covid-era production disruption while demand for parts like memory and processors remains strong.
“While we are still confident about the fourth quarter, the supply shortage issues will stay for us and for other vendors as well,” President Wang Xiang told reporters. “We will see a fairly big challenge in fourth quarter and the challenge could persist to next year.”
Xiaomi remains one of the few major Chinese tech companies to enjoy strong growth abroad — and in developed markets, to boot — at a time governments from the U.S. to India are erecting barriers to the country’s businesses. Overseas revenue from Xiaomi’s smaller Internet of Things division, which sells gadgets like like smart cookers and robot vacuums, rose 56.2% in the third quarter. In India, it’s managed to cling to the top spot despite a deep, nationwide Covid-19 lockdown and bans on several of its apps.
At home, it’s benefiting from rapid Chinese adoption of 5G-enabled smartphones as the network rollout gains pace.
Huawei this month struck a deal to sell its budget brand Honor to a Chinese government-backed consortium, which may heighten competition in the smartphone arena. But the threat from Huawei itself is likely to diminish until it can somehow get around a ban on American software and circuitry, such as by building its own Android-based operating system of apps.
In the short run, Xiaomi could gain as many as 15 million units in additional smartphone shipments thanks to Honor’s exit, Citigroup analyst Andre Lin wrote in a memo ahead of the earnings. “But if Honor remained a major competitor, Xiaomi’s 2021 consensus forecasts would face downside revisions of 5%-10% in shipments,” Lin said.
Citing national security concerns, the U.S. has waged a far-ranging campaign against Huawei since 2018 that landed its chief financial officer under house arrest in Canada and fomented bans against the use of the company’s 5G equipment in countries from the U.K. to Japan. The final blow came when the White House enacted sweeping restrictions against suppliers this year, closing off loopholes that let Huawei procure ready-made semiconductors to keep its consumer business afloat.