By Yimou Lee
HONG KONG (Reuters) - China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd said smartphone shipments in the first half rose 62 percent year-on-year, as it targets the more expensive smartphone sector dominated by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc.
Shenzhen-based Huawei has shipped 34.27 million smartphones globally in the first six months ending June 30 - about 43 percent of its annual shipment target of 80 million, according to Reuters' calculations based on figures provided by Huawei.
"We recorded faster growth in areas such as Middle East and Africa and Latin America, with 275 percent and 550 percent year-on-year growth in the second quarter, respectively," Shao Yang, vice president of marketing in the consumer business group, told Reuters in a written statement.
He attributed the growth to improving brand awareness and stronger sales channels in overseas markets.
"Based on the growth momentum at the moment, we are firmly moving toward our full-year target," Shao said, adding that smartphones are now accounting for 97 percent of Huawei's global phone shipments.
The company, which competes with Chinese makers Lenovo Group Ltd and ZTE Corp, shipped about 21 million smartphones globally in the second quarter ending June 30, an 85 percent rise from the same period of last year.
Huawei's strong growth in smartphone shipments confirms the challenge facing market leader Samsung Electronics, which issued unexpectedly weak quarterly earnings guidance citing increasing competition from Chinese rivals who are offering high-end models at cheaper prices.
Among the 80 million smartphones Huawei is planning to ship this year, about 20 percent of them would be mid- to high-end models, up from the 16 percent shipped in 2013, the company told Reuters earlier this year.
But industry watchers said Huawei still faces strong headwinds in its efforts to break into the premium handset market, a segment that Apple has continued to dominate.
The Cupertino company this month reported surprisingly strong smartphone sales in China, reaffirming the allure of the iPhone brand among China's well-to-do.
In China, Huawei said it had shipped more than 20 million smart devices, including smartphones and tablets, in the first half of this year.
Shao said Huawei had a long-term and stable partnership with China's three major carriers - which would give the company an advantage over foreign rivals such as Samsung and Apple in the world's largest smartphone market.
But he declined to reveal how many smartphones it had shipped in China in the first half.
Huawei had a 4.7 percent share of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of this year, a distant third behind Samsung Electronics with 30.8 percent and Apple with 15.2 percent, according to IDC.
(Editing by Stephen Coates)