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Huawei boosted phone sales this year but expects 2020 to be 'difficult'

The Chinese phone giant was blacklisted by the US government in 2019.

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Carrie Mihalcik Former Managing Editor / News
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Huawei phones are virtually invisible in the US despite its massive presence around the world.

Angela Lang/CNET

If Huawei wants to survive in 2020, it'll have to go all out. That's the message from rotating Chairman Eric Xu. In a New Year's message, Xu said Huawei had a strong year but will face a "difficult" 2020 as the US continues to ban devices and equipment from the Chinese telecom giant and phone maker.

The company estimates sales revenue will top 850 billion yuan ($122 billion) in 2019, an 18% increase over the previous year but lower than expected. Huawei also shipped 240 million smartphones in 2019, a 17% jump from last year, according to CNN.

Earlier this year, the Commerce Department blacklisted Huawei following a May executive order from President Donald Trump that effectively banned the company from US communications networks. National security officials fear that equipment and devices from Huawei could be used to spy on other countries and companies. Huawei has repeatedly denied that charge. This unfolded as the US and China were locked in a trade war for much of 2019.

Xu said the US government has created a challenging environment for "Huawei to survive and thrive." The company will need to build up its own mobile services -- alternatives to Google's products -- to ensure it's able to continue selling phones in overseas markets, Xu said. 

"Survival will be our first priority," he said.

While its phones are virtually invisible in the US, Huawei is the world's second largest phone maker (behind Samsung .) In October, Huawei released the foldable Mate X in China, its rival to Samsung's Galaxy Fold and Motorola's folding Razr. The company's next flagship phones, the P40 and P40 Pro, are expected to be unveiled at an event in Paris in March 2020.

Huawei didn't immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

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Originally published Dec. 31, 6:38 a.m. PT.
Update, 7:06 a.m.: Adds background on Huawei.