Huawei exec who turned the Chinese firm into smartphone giant takes the reigns at the cloud and A.I. unit

Richard Yu (Yu Chengdong), head of Huawei’s consumer business, speaks during the presentation of a Kirin 990 5G chip set at the international electronics and innovation fair IFA in Berlin on September 6, 2019.

Tobias Schwarz | AFP | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s smartphone business, has been tapped to also lead the company’s young cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) unit, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNBC, just as the handset division faces an uncertain future.

Yu turned Huawei into a company that designed and made phones for other brands into one of the world’s top smartphone vendors in just a few years. After a brief time as the top smartphone maker in the world, Huawei’s handset business has been in decline due to U.S. sanctions.

The executive, who has been at Huawei for nearly three decades, will start his post as head of the cloud and AI business on Feb. 7, the source said.

Huawei nor Yu were immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Moving a successful veteran to this business unit, which was created last year, highlights the areas where Huawei sees its future as some of its businesses, in particular smartphones, continue to feel the heat from U.S. pressure.

“Richard has a proven track record in Huawei from various posts. I believe there will be greater synergy between smartphones and cloud computing with him onboard with additional responsibility,” the source said.

Yu’s appointment comes at a time of flux for Huawei. He will be tasked with deciding what comes next for Huawei’s smartphone business but also with trying to turn the company into a cloud computing and artificial intelligence giant, competing with rivals such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.

Smartphone troubles

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