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China Gears Up for 2005

13th December 2004

As part of our end-of-year roundup, we're looking forward to some names from the Far East that you might get to hear a lot more of in 2005.

Ningbo Bird

 Bird V89 You might not have heard of Ningbo Bird, but this relatively new Chinese mobile phone maker might be just about to hit the big time. Increasingly successful in the domestic Chinese market, it is also widely rumoured to be interested in taking over the mobile phone arm of Siemens, Bird has only been in the mobile phone market for just over 5 years, and maintains partner arrangements with both Siemens and Sagem. Although Siemens is currently the world's fourth largest mobile phone maker, with just over 7% of the market (and around the same size as LG and Sony Ericsson), it appears that mounting losses have forced Siemens to consider selling off the whole business. Siemens already has a business relationship with Ningbo Bird, and the Chinese firm will be anxious to get access to Siemens' technology base.

A large proportion of Bird's mobile phone base is shared with Sagem, a leading French technology and defence company. The Sagem myC5-2/Bird V89 (pictured) and Sagem myC-3/Bird F1 are basically identical, with many other Bird handsets very similar to Sagem's. Even if Bird doesn't buy the Siemens mobile business, the partnership with Sagem looks very promising as the French firm is currently one of Europe's up-and-coming mobile phone makers. However, the Sagem joint venture won't give Bird access to European markets, whereas the Siemens business would.


 Haier V6200 If you've heard of Haier, it's likely it's through their white goods products (refrigerators, washing machines and the like), or their "pen phones" starting with the Haier P5. Unusually for a Chinese company, Haier has some brand recognition outside of China. Another advantage Haier has is an international distribution network and offices in many different countries, making it easier to actually get goods into the market.

Haier's range of phones are capable and quite attractive handsets, with all the usual features you'd expect to find in any entry-level to midrange phones. Already selling in some marketplaces such as Eastern Europe, Haier hopes to expand into larger markets, probably by targetting smaller operators. Handsets such as the Haier V6200 seem pretty competitive with midrange Samsungs in terms of specifications.

Will 2005 be the year these two Chinese manufacturers become major players? Unlike Bird, Haier doesn't necessarily need to find a western partner to be successful in Europe, but if Bird does manage to acquire the Siemens business, it will effectively come from nowhere to controlling one of the largest mobile handset manufacturers in the world. We think that it's highly likely that we'll see an increasing number of handsets from these manufacturers on the shelves next year.


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