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China’s Oppo to shut down chip design unit as smartphone sales slump

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SHANGHAI (Reuters – May 13, 2023) – Chinese smartphone maker Oppo said it will shut down its chip design unit, citing uncertainties in the global economy and the smartphone industry.

The company, one of China’s best-selling domestic smartphone brands, said it will cease operations of its Zeku unit, which it set up in 2019. Its products include the MariSilicon X chip, which is a neural processing unit (NPU) that improves images for video and photography taken on smartphones.

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“Due to the uncertainties in the global economy and the smartphone industry, we have to make difficult adjustments for long-term development,” a company representative said.

China’s smartphone market, the world’s biggest, is struggling to recover from one of its worst ever slumps as cost-conscious consumers continue to shy away from big-ticket purchases even after the country’s lifting of zero-COVID curbs.

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In 2022, smartphone shipments fell 14%, and total unit shipments fell below 300 million for the first time in a decade. In the first quarter, total smartphone shipments dropped 11% year-on-year to 67.2 million units, the lowest quarterly total since 2013, research firm Canalys said last month.

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Oppo and its Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi (1810.HK) set up in-house chip design units in pursuit of self-reliance after the U.S. crippled Huawei Technologies’ (HWT.UL) smartphone division with sanctions that prevented it from sourcing key components.

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Oppo is owned by BBK Electronics, which also owns Vivo, another top-selling Chinese smartphone brand.

Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Josh Ye in Hong Kong Editing by Shri Navaratnam
– The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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