ZTE plummets after U.S. Senate puts Trump reprieve in doubt


HONG KONG (Reuters) – Shares of ZTE Corp plunged on Tuesday after the U.S. Senate’s passage of a defense bill set up a potential battle with the White House over whether the Chinese telecoms firm can resume business with its U.S. suppliers.

FILE PHOTO: The inside of a ZTE smart phone is pictured in this illustration taken April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Illustration/File Photo

This year, the Senate included an amendment that could kill the Trump administration’s agreement to allow ZTE to resume business with U.S. suppliers, one of the few times the Republican-led Senate has veered from White House policy.

ZTE’s Hong Kong-listed shares tumbled as much as 24 percent to HK$10.02, its lowest in nearly two years, while its Shenzhen shares fell by their daily limit of 10 percent. Since trading resumed last week, the stock has lost 38 percent or more than $7 billion in market value.

The Senate voted 85-10 for the annual National Defense Authorization Act, throwing the state-backed company back into the center of a bilateral trade spat and reigniting uncertainty over the outlook for its crucial supply chain.

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But before it can become law, the bill must be reconciled with one already passed by the House of Representatives that does not include the amendment. Any compromise measure must then be passed by both chambers and signed into law by Trump.

ZTE was hit in April with a seven-year ban barring U.S. suppliers selling to it after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

At Trump’s urging, ZTE and the U.S. Commerce Department reached an agreement on June 7 to have the ban lifted. According to the agreement, the ban would only be lifted after ZTE pays a $1 billion fine and puts another $400 million in escrow in a U.S. approved bank for 10 years.

Last Wednesday, ZTE proposed a $10.7 billion financing plan and nominated eight board members as it seeks to rebuild its business.

Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree, Sijia Jiang and Donny Kwok; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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