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story.lead_photo.caption A man stands near an advertisement for Huawei's Honor brand 5G phones in Beijing on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING -- Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co. is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand to a Chinese government-backed consortium to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company.

The sale announced Tuesday is aimed at reviving Honor by separating it from Huawei's network equipment business, which Washington says is a security threat, an accusation Huawei denies. It is under sanctions that block access to most U.S. processor chips and other technology.

Huawei's announcement gave no financial details but said the company will have no ownership stake once the sale is completed. Huawei will retain its flagship Huawei smartphone brand.

The deal could help augment a brand that's gained popularity among younger budget-conscious users in recent years and made headway in overseas markets like Europe.

The buyer is a state-owned company in Shenzhen, the southern city where Huawei is headquartered, and a group of Honor retailers. Earlier news reports on rumors of a possible sale put the price as high as $15 billion.

"The move has been made by Honor's industry chain to ensure its own survival," said the Huawei statement. The buyers said in a separate statement the split was "the best solution" to protect customers and employees.

Huawei, China's first global tech brand and the biggest maker of switching equipment used by phone and internet companies, is at the center of U.S.-Chinese tension over technology, security and spying. The feud has spread to include the popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok and messaging service WeChat.

Economists and political analysts expect little change in U.S. policy toward China under President-elect Joe Biden due to widespread frustration with Beijing over trade and technology.

Honor was an integral part of Huawei's smartphone business, once larger than Samsung Electronics Co.'s but now struggling to secure enough crucial components and software for production. The sale illustrates the uneven impact of White House sanctions on China's largest technology company, whose consumer business is ailing even as its networking unit soldiers on. Shenzhen-based Huawei is said to have safeguarded its core telecom equipment business by stockpiling critical components to continue supplying its home country's 5G roll-out through at least 2021.

Huawei appears to be preparing for hard times by focusing its resources on its high-end smartphones, said Nicole Peng of Canalys.

The sale is "definitely a sign of weakness," Peng said.

"It shows Huawei knows that the situation will not change immediately between China and the U.S.," Peng said.

Tuesday's announcements gave no indication how Honor planned to regain access to U.S. chips and other technology including Google's popular music, maps and other services. Other Chinese smartphone brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo operate without such restrictions.

U.S. SECURITY CONCERNS

U.S. security complaints focus on Huawei's network gear and leading role in next-generation telecom technology.

American officials say Huawei might facilitate Chinese spying, which the company denies. They also see Chinese government-supported technology development as a threat to U.S. industrial dominance. The Trump administration is lobbying European and other allies to exclude Huawei and other Chinese suppliers as they upgrade networks.

Meanwhile, Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, is under arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to the United States to face charges related to possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran.

Sanctions imposed last year block Huawei's access to most U.S. processor chips and other technology. Those were tightened in May when the White House barred manufacturers worldwide from using U.S. technology to produce chips for Huawei, including those designed by its own engineers.

HUGE GLOBAL SALES

The buyer is Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology Co. It was founded by Shenzhen Smart City Technology Development Group Co., which was formed by the city government to develop information technology infrastructure.

The Smart City company owns 98.6% of Zhixin, according to Aiqicha, a financial information service of search engine Baidu, Inc. The buyers' statement said the rest of the 40-member investment group includes Honor retailers.

Honor, founded in 2013, is one of the world's biggest-selling smartphone brands. Huawei says it ships 70 million handsets a year.

Total shipments of Huawei and Honor handsets fell 5% from a year earlier in the quarter ending in June to 55.8 million, according to Canalys. Sales in China rose 8% but shipments abroad fell 27%.

Huawei reported earlier total revenue for the first nine months of 2020 rose 9.9% to $100.4 billion. That was down from 13.1% growth in the first half, but the company said it still was profitable.

Information for this article was contributed by Joe McDonald and Zen Soo of The Associated Press and by staff members of Bloomberg News.

An attendee at a launch event for Huawei's Honor brand mobile phone stands near the brand logo in Beijing, China, Tuesday, May 10, 2016. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
An attendee at a launch event for Huawei's Honor brand mobile phone stands near the brand logo in Beijing, China, Tuesday, May 10, 2016. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A staff member uses his smartphone in front of a billboard for Chinese smartphone brand Honor at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing on April 26, 2018. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A staff member uses his smartphone in front of a billboard for Chinese smartphone brand Honor at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing on April 26, 2018. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
George Zhao, Huawei's Honor brand president speaks during an event to launch one of its mobile phone in Beijing, China, Tuesday, May 10, 2016. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
George Zhao, Huawei's Honor brand president speaks during an event to launch one of its mobile phone in Beijing, China, Tuesday, May 10, 2016. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A staff member talks to a visitor at a booth for Chinese smartphone brand Honor at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing on April 26, 2018. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A staff member talks to a visitor at a booth for Chinese smartphone brand Honor at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing on April 26, 2018. In an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, Chinese tech giant Huawei says it is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
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