iFlyTek says 2019 revenue will exceed USD 1.4 billion as it downplays impact of tech war

Last year was a challenging one for Chinese tech companies as the tech cold war between China and the US escalated.

China’s voice recognition champion iFlyTek said on Monday that its 2019 revenue is expected to surpass RMB 10 billion yuan (USD 1.4 billion) on the back of healthy development in its core artificial intelligence business.

Despite being added to a US trade blacklist last October, iFlyTek said it will report a net profit of RMB 732 million to RMB 894 million for 2019, representing year-on-year growth of between 35% to 65% amid a “complicated international and domestic economic environment”, according to a company statement.

Last year was a challenging one for Chinese tech companies as the tech cold war between the world’s two largest economies escalated.

Citing national security concerns, the US added Chinese telecoms leader Huawei Technologies to a so-called Entity list last May, banning it from buying US-made components and software.

Five months later, iFlyTek, along with 20 Chinese public security bureaus and seven other companies including facial recognition start-ups Sensetime, Megvii and Yitu, video surveillance specialists Hikvision and Dahua Technology, were added to the same trade blacklist over Beijing’s alleged surveillance of Uygur Muslims and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

However, iFlyTek brushed off its US entity list inclusion when it announced third quarter earnings of RMB 184 million on an earlier forecast of between RMB 141 million to 191 million.

In a new year message on the company’s official WeChat account the company said it will pursue original technology innovation as the trade war gradually evolves into a tech war, noting that AI applications are accelerating as more people take advantage of the technology.

iFlyTek was named one of China’s national AI champions in November 2017. Its translation products are used in 200 countries and regions around the world, while its smart education products are used by 35,000 schools in China and its smart doctor assistant is offered in over 1,200 community health centers in nearly 100 counties across the country.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post