ZTE Shares Tank After US Senate Puts Trump Reprieve in Doubt

June 19, 2018 Updated: June 19, 2018

HONG KONG—Shares of ZTE plummeted on June 19 after the U.S. Senate’s passage of a defense bill set up a potential battle with the White House over whether the Chinese telecoms firm can resume business with its U.S. suppliers.

The 85-10 bipartisan vote—one of the few times the Republican-led Senate has veered from White House policy—came on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose a 10-percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Trump is, however, expected to lobby hard against the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and before it can become law, the bill must be reconciled with one passed by the House of Representatives that does not include the amendment.

Any compromise measure must then be passed by both chambers and signed into law by Trump—a series of hurdles that has Asia-based analysts predicting that ZTE will get eventually get its reprieve.

“The NDAA is not really a reversal of the ZTE deal, but will in all probability prolong the ban-lifting process for ZTE,” said Nikhil Batra, a senior research manager with industry consultancy IDC.

ZTE‘s Hong Kong-listed shares tumbled as much as 27 percent to HK$9.56, their lowest level in nearly two years, before ending the day down 25 percent. Its shares on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in mainland China fell by their daily limit of 10 percent.

The stock has lost around 38 percent, or more than $7.4 billion in market value, since trading resumed last week after a suspension in mid-April when the sanctions were announced.

“The longer it goes by without the ban being lifted, the more uncertain and damaging it is,” said Jefferies analyst Edison Lee.

ZTE was hit in April with a seven-year ban barring U.S. suppliers from selling to it after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

ZTE had pleaded guilty in 2017, admitting that it had shipped to Iran ZTE equipment fitted with U.S. tech parts, against sanctions.

ZTE relies heavily on U.S. tech components to make its smartphones and other devices. A 2016 report released by a Chinese regime-affiliated think tank found that ZTE purchased 53 percent of its chips from American firms, worth $3.1 billion. It predicted that any U.S. sanctions would have a detrimental effect on ZTE and the Chinese tech industry in general.

Semiconductors, which are chips necessary for powering almost all electronic devices, make up one of China’s largest import categories by value.

At Trump’s urging, ZTE and the U.S. Commerce Department reached an agreement on June 7 to have the supplier ban lifted.

According to the agreement, the ban would only be lifted after ZTE pays a $1 billion fine and puts another $400 million in escrow in a U.S. approved bank for 10 years. The firm was also ordered to radically overhaul its management.

Last week, ZTE proposed a $10.7 billion financing plan and nominated eight board members as it seeks to rebuild its business.

By Sijia Jiang. Epoch Times staff member Annie Wu contributed to this report.