US Allows ZTE Transactions to Maintain Networks

The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday granted a temporary reprieve to ZTE that allows China’s No. 2 telecommunications equipment maker to conduct business needed to maintain existing networks and equipment in the United States as it works toward the lifting of a U.S. sales ban.

The authorization from the department’s Bureau of Industry and Services, dated July 2 and seen by Reuters, runs until August 1.

ZTE and spokespeople for the Commerce Department did not respond to requests for comment.

ZTE, which makes smartphones and networking gear, was forced to cease major operations in April after the United States slapped it with a supplier ban saying it broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The company had also agreed to pay a $1 billion penalty and put $400 million in an escrow account as part of the deal to resume business with U.S. suppliers — which provide almost a third of the components used in ZTE’s equipment.

The escrow agreement is still pending, according to a source. Until it is executed, ZTE cannot deposit the $400 million in escrow necessary to get the ban lifted.

While the denial order is still in place, the authorization grants a waiver to some companies that do business with ZTE to do so for one month, a source told Reuters.

The waivers allow for a limited type of activity but do not authorize any new business.

The uncertainty about the ban amid intensifying U.S.-China trade tensions has hammered ZTE shares, which have fallen 60 percent since trading resumed last month following a two-month hiatus, wiping out more than $11 billion of the company’s market valuation.

ZTE announced a new board last week in a radical management shakeup as part of a $1.4 billion deal with the United States.