Often, Q&A sessions at analyst conferences don’t reveal anything very interesting. There are two reasons for this.
First, and more obviously, the person answering the questions has just talked through all the things they wanted to say, and will stonewall difficult questions, for all sorts of reasons (not wanting to reveal commercially confidential information, not wanting to comment on competitors, and so on). It’s a bit of a game, and can be quite amusing. There was a good example of this at the Huawei Global Analyst Summit when CEO and Chairman Eric Xu was asked two questions – one about competitors in the enterprise IT market (A: you know who they are) and one about the impact of political tension between China and some other countries such as the Philippines (A: there is none).
Analysts don’t ask very good questions
Second, analysts don’t always ask very good questions in open sessions. They don’t want to reveal commercially confidential information either (such as topics they might be working on, or angles they might be taking on a particular matter). And on a more personal level, above anything else, analysts don’t want to look foolish in front of their peers by asking questions that might reveal a less-than-perfect understanding of a subject. We are, after all, paid to be knowledgeable and perceptive. Usually analysts will save their most penetrating questions for one-on-one briefings.
But sometimes nuggets do slip out in open Q&A, even if they have to be inferred from context. I guess that’s the reason for analysts and journalists to be there in the room, and not reading transcripts or press releases afterwards.
So, Eric Xu was asked about the growth of Huawei’s enterprise business unit’s growth potential and positioning. And he said that he thought his company’s carrier network business sales would plateau after around two years, but that the enterprise market represented ultimately a much bigger addressable market than the carrier market, and that actually, selling to enterprises would be the major growth engine for its B2B sales.
The aim, said Mr Xu, is to build a USD10bn enterprise business by 2019: “enterprise business represents the future Huawei”. Furthermore, Mr Xu acknowledged that Huawei faced significant challenges in being accepted as a credible vendor in the enterprise market, at least outside China. This certainly explains the focus of the event on all things IT. Sometimes, questions can prompt interesting responses: it’s worth persevering.