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Friday, June 29, 2018
ZTE Revamps Chairman and Board to Avoid U.S. Ban

ZTE has appointed a new chairman and tapped legal professionals as part of an overhaul of the board intended to free the company from a ban on American technology purchases.

The company's shareholders voted in Li Zixue, the 54-year-old deputy director of the Xi'an Microelectronics Technology Institute, as chairman, according to a Shenzhen stock exchange filing. The firm became the earliest investor in ZTE whenthe company was established in Shenzhen in 1985.

Shareholders approved the appointment of eight new directors Friday during a two-hour annual general meeting at ZTE's Shenzhen headquarters. ZTE also said its former board of 14 resigned. The company had appointed Tian Dongfang, a former chief of the same institute, as party secretary.

New leadership was one of several conditions in an agreement struck between ZTE and the U.S. to end a seven-year ban on technology purchases that crippled its business. The Chinese company also agreed to pay a steep fine for violating sanctions on exports to Iran and North Korea, then lying about it. ZTE's lost almost $11 billion of market value since its shares resumed trading on June 13.

Despite the management reshuffle, the five new non-independent directors have a similar profile to their predecessors, coming either from ZTE's major shareholders or through internal promotions.

The company's new management now has to rebuild trust with phone companies and corporate customers. And its settlement with the Commerce Department remains in doubt, since lawmakers dispute the agreement and are negotiating a bill with the White House that may effectively reinstate the ban.

The ban carries catastrophic consequences for ZTE, which relies heavily on semiconductor chips purchased from U.S. companies Qualcomm and Intel. The company is said to be facing at least $3 billion in total losses from the months-long moratorium.

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