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Huawei $2m US patent deal under threat PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Executives at Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker, believe the Obama administration will force the company to unwind a $2m purchase of patents that was completed in May, people familiar with the matter told the FT.
The committee on foreign investment in the US (Cfius), the panel that conducts classified security reviews of foreign takeovers of US assets, is due to deliver its decision on Monday.
While the company has not yet been told the fate of the deal, executives believe - based on dealings with the US government - that the White House will either force it to be unwound or place such extensive regulations in place that will effectively make use of the technology protected by the patents impossible.
Huawei bought the patents from a company called 3Leaf. Before the deal was consummated, the company alerted the Commerce Department about its intentions and requested special export licences to use the patents. Huawei said it was told it would not require special licences, a fact that earlier boosted the company"s confidence that it would win approval of the transaction.

Rejection of the deal would have a debilitating impact on Huawei"s expansion ambitions in the US. The company was already forced to abandon a joint takeover of 3Com, the US technology company, in 2008 after Cfius told the company it had extensive national security concerns. Since then, Huawei has pursued an aggressive lobbying campaign to try to convince US lawmakers and officials within the Obama administration that it was transparent and did not pose a threat to national security.
If Huawei is forced to unwind the 3Leaf deal, it will send a stark message that the company is likely to be blocked from other attempted acquisitions.
Last year, Huawei lost a bid for a significant equipment contract with Sprint, the US telecommunications group. It was notified that it was out of contention for the contract just days after Gary Locke, the US commerce secretary, personally called Sprint chief executive Dan Hesse to express concerns about the deal.
A decision to force Huawei to abandon the patents could also have ramifications for US businesses in China, which could face retaliation from Chinese antitrust and other authorities.
While Cfius has never commented openly about its alleged concerns over Huawei, analysts - who are close to the government - say that the US panel was angered by the fact the Chinese company did not inform it of the 3Leaf deal. Companies technically submit to Cfius reviews voluntarily but Huawei was, in effect, forced under pressure to submit the transaction for a government review after the deal was already closed.
Huawei has consistently denied accusations on Capitol Hill that it is connected to the Chinese military and has said it is willing to make concessions to address security concerns.
The deal has put the Obama administration in a difficult position. People familiar with the 3Leaf transaction say Cfius officials are examining legal mechanisms under which Barack Obama, US president, would not have to issue a direct order for Huawei to unwind the deal.
Under the law, Cfius can make a recommendation to the president, but only Mr Obama has the final say over whether a deal ought to be blocked or unwound. Such a ruling cannot be challenged in court under current regulations.
A possible direct order by Mr Obama forcing Huawei to sell the patents it acquired - and find a suitable solution for the 15 employees it took over as part of the 3Leaf deal - comes at an awkward time for the president, because it would occur just weeks after the White House hosted Chinese president Hu Jintao for a state visit.
Most people familiar with 3Leaf believe that the patents do not themselves pose a big risk to national security. Instead, government officials are more concerned about the company as a whole.
Bill Plummer, vice-president of external affairs at Huawei, said: "We have been engaged in this process for a number of months in good faith and we look forward to the process concluding without external interference and appropriately in terms of this having been a standard patent purchase of very modest proportions."
Mr Plummer"s reference to external interference pointed to the pressure Cfius has been under from Republican members of Congress who have called for the deal to be blocked.
The Treasury Department, which chairs Cfius, declined to comment, citing the classified nature of national security investigations


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