Xingji Meizu, a smartphone company controlled by Geely founder Eric Li, has decided to discontinue its chip development business for cost-saving reasons. The move is expected to result in layoffs of dozens of staff members, including some fresh graduates, local media outlet Meiren Auto reported on Tuesday.
Why it matters: Xingji Meizu is the latest company to abandon its pursuit of critical and emerging technologies in the Chinese auto and tech industries, reflecting the challenges of a faltering economy and intensifying competition.
- The news comes just days after electric vehicle maker Nio delayed the development of its own batteries to ease cashflow constraints. Similarly, in May, rival phone maker Oppo announced the closure of its chip design unit Zeku after five years of operations.
Details: In a statement sent to financial media publication CLS on Tuesday, Xingji Meizu said the company is closing down its in-house chip design program in the face of global economic uncertainties, and will instead sharpen its focus on product innovation and user experience.
- Xingji added that it will offer compensation as required by law, along with internal job transfer opportunities, to ensure the rights and interests of employees, especially fresh graduates, without revealing further details. Geely did not respond to TechNode’s request for comment.
- The company’s chipmaking institute employs approximately 200 people, and dozens of recent graduates are likely to be impacted by the layoffs, according to Meiren Auto. “[The news] came just three weeks into the job,” one of the new employees told the outlet.
- Development has mostly stalled since the launch of the institute, according to a person with direct insight into the company’s operations. Chief executive Shen Ziyu told Chinese reporters in March that emerging technologies, including chipmaking, were at the center of Xingji’s strategic efforts, alongside smartphones and in-car systems.
Context: Geely’s other affiliates have reported progress in semiconductor technology. The most recent example is the Lynk & Co 08 SUV featuring an in-car operating system built upon a supercomputing platform provided by Ecarx, another auto tech firm founded by Shen Ziyu and Geely’s Eric Li.
- Siengine, Ecarx’s joint venture with Arm China, was responsible for designing seven-nanometer chips intended for use in computers in partnership with leading global chipmaker TSMC, Shen told Reuters back in March 2021.
- Xingji Technology, a company established by Li, acquired nearly 80% shares in beleaguered smartphone maker Meizu last summer, which preceded the establishment of Xingji Meizu and the release of Meizu’s first high-end handset series in two years this March.
- Xingji Meizu is also leading the business development of Geely-owned Swedish automaker Polestar in the Chinese market, having set up a joint venture with the EV maker in June.
- Geely founder Li first revealed his plans to enter the smartphone market back in 2021.