A Chinese-owned company is making circuit boards for the top secret next generation F-35 warplanes flown by Britain and the United States, Sky News can reveal.
Exception PCB, a printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturer in Gloucestershire, south west England, produces circuit boards that “control many of the F-35’s core capabilities”, according to publicity material produced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
This includes “its engines, lighting, fuel and navigation systems”, it said.
When asked about the firm’s Chinese ownership, the MoD said Exception PCB is an established manufacturer of circuit boards to the defence industry and presents “no risk” to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter supply chain.
But defence experts, including former defence ministers, expressed concern that a Chinese-owned company is producing any parts for such a classified, British and American fifth generation programme, because of long-standing fears about Chinese espionage and rivalry.
They said it is a particularly odd situation given President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and his opposition to any involvement by another Chinese company, Huawei, in fifth generation civilian mobile phone networks.
“We have been completely and utterly naive about the role of China and it is only now that people are beginning to wake up,” said Sir Gerald Howarth, a former Tory defence minister.
There is no suggestion that Exception PCB or its Chinese parent, Shenzhen Fastprint, have done anything wrong.
The Chinese state has long been accused of seeking to steal details on the multi-billion-pound F-35 programme, headed by US defence giant Lockheed Martin.
The stealth aircraft, fitted with a suite of highly classified sensors and other technology, will form a core part of US, British and other allied air and naval forces for the coming decades.
Companies in nine countries that partnered on the programme from its early stages supply components for the entire fleet of aircraft that is being built.
This means parts made in the UK are put on F-35 jets flown by the US, Japanese, Norwegian, Italian and other militaries.
The revelation that one Chinese-owned firm is part of this global supply chain raises the possibility there could be others.
Lockheed Martin was unable to state categorically this was not the case.
“We are not aware of any other Chinese-owned F-35 suppliers at this time,” the firm said.
A March publication by the UK MoD, entitled Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) Action Plan, promoted Exception PCB as an example of a UK-based firm that is part of the supply chain for the F-35.
What it did not mention is that Shenzhen Fastprint – a company based in China and listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange – bought Exception PCB in 2013.
Describing its involvement in the aircraft programme, the MoD publication said: “Gloucestershire-based Exception PCB manufacture the circuit boards that control many of the F-35’s core capabilities.”
A news article published by the MoD last November again promoted Exception PCB’s F-35 credentials as part of an event called “Small Business Saturday”.
It said the company’s 107 employees “manufactured the circuit boards that control many of the F-35’s core capabilities, including its engines, lighting, fuel and navigation systems”.
An MoD spokesman this week played down the firm’s activities when asked about its Chinese ownership and what due diligence the UK had carried out.
“Exception PCB produces bare circuit boards and as a result there are no risks associated with their product in the F-35 aircraft supply chain,” he said.
Lockheed Martin, however, signalled there could be a limited risk.
It described Exception PCB as a “third-tier” supplier because its products go via another company, GE Aviation, before reaching the aircraft.
“Exception PCB produces bare circuit boards with no electronics to GE Aviation,” it said.
“These parts, like all components on the F-35, are inspected repeatedly at each stage of manufacture. Additionally, Exception PCB has no visibility or access to any sensitive programme information and there is limited to no risk associated with their minimal role in the programme.”
It added: “Should Exception PCB be determined an unapproved source in the future, GE Aviation has alternate sources of supply that would ensure no impact to the programme.”
Clark Ince, a director of Hallmark Electronics, another printed circuit board manufacturer in the UK, said firms make boards according to a design given to them by their customer.
He said he thinks it is possible for a company that buys another firm to glean details of what the circuit boards on its acquisition’s order books might be used for even if – as in the case of Exception PCB – it is simply bare circuit boards for the F-35.
“They can look at certain designs and probably recognise what it’s used for. If it is similar to what they are making but of a better design then they will copy it,” he said.
It is also possible to embed technology such as a chip without a customer’s knowledge into a circuit board that could affect the way it functions, he said.
Asked whether he thought there was a risk to allow a Chinese-owned company to make circuit boards for the F-35, Mr Ince said: “Yes I think so, personally I think so.”
A senior manager at Exception PCB had initially been happy to talk on camera about the F-35 work and show Sky News around the firm’s plant on an industrial estate in Tewkesbury.
But the request was denied when he sought approval from his boss and from GE Aviation.
Exception PCB did not reply to subsequent emailed questions about its Chinese ownership, such as whether a firewall is in place to ensure no information about the company’s F-35-related work is shared with Shenzhen Fastprint.
An industry source said a delegation from GE Aviation was due to visit Exception PCB’s Tewkesbury headquarters this week in the wake of Sky News asking questions about its Chinese ownership even though this had been known when the takeover happened.
Documents on Exception PCB’s website show that the company has also done work on other sensitive defence programmes including the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet, operated by the Royal Air Force, the US military’s F-16 warplanes and the Apache attack helicopter.
An MoD source said the firm has been involved in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 programme since its inception almost two decades ago.
Defence and security experts said it is surprising that a Chinese firm was allowed to acquire a British company with these kind of defence contracts.
“I think it’s breath-taking,” said Bob Seely, a Tory MP and army reservist who co-authored a paper about concerns on China’s Huawei and Britain’s 5G mobile network.
“It’s not a question of: Is this bad? But it’s a question of: How bad is it?” he said. Mr Seely said he plans to raise the matter with Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt in a letter.
Paul Beaver, a defence analyst, said there can be a blurring of the line between commercial entities and the state in China, which is particularly relevant when it comes to defence.
Beijing “believes that commercial companies in China are part of the state effort”, he said.
“What people are concerned about – and I’m one of those – is if you have anything with a Chinese connection at least it ought to be known and the risks need to be assessed… To have it in the world’s first fifth generation strike aircraft I think is really a cause for concern.”
Lockheed Martin said there are no “direct F-35 suppliers based in China or under Chinese ownership”. This does not include indirect suppliers like Exception PCB, however.
“We work closely with our industry partners to manage the F-35 Global Supply Chain in accordance with rigorous defence acquisition standards to ensure no parts and components from unapproved sources are included in aircraft production,” Lockheed Martin said.
GE Aviation said it “works closely with all of our suppliers to ensure rigorous compliance with defence acquisition standards, export regulations and all legal obligations, including the F-35 supply chain.
“Exception PCB – a commonly-used industry supplier – produces bare circuit boards in the UK for GE Aviation and has no visibility to the design or drawing of the F-35 system”.
Havens in, tech stocks out may be the theme for Friday.
Investors seem eager to insure themselves against geopolitical tensions that have flared up in the Middle East and Hong Kong this week, with gold vaulting on Friday. Meanwhile, U.S. technology stocks might not win any popularity contests as a red flag cropped up over how the trade war is biting that industry.
Tech conglomerate Broadcom is sliding in premarket activity after slashing its revenue guidance, citing a hit from an export ban on big Chinese customer Huawei, so it could be the Nasdaq COMP, -0.53% that leads the market south as traders head into the weekend.
Trade tensions are also one reason DoubleLine Capital Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Gundlach now sees a bigger chance of a recession hitting U.S. shores in the not-too-distant future.
Providing our call of the day, Gundlach predicted a 40% to 50% chance of a U.S. recession within the next six months and a 65% chance of that happening in the next 12 months, in a webcast to clients late Thursday, according to a roundup of his comments from Reuters and other media outlets. He said signs of a slowdown on the global economic front are also a worry.
The so-called bond king and closely watched market forecaster isn’t the only one starting to fret. JPMorgan’s chief quant strategist Marko Kolanovic said in a note this week that President Donald Trump’s trade battles have cost U.S. companies trillions, and could trigger a downturn that would end up being known as the “Trump recession.”
Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley reported Thursday that its closely watched Business Conditions Index fell by the most on record in June to a level of 13, nearing levels not seen since the downturn of 2008, though economist Ellen Zentner said their analysts weren’t really blaming that on trade.
No doubt, the calls for the Federal Reserve to head off a downturn are growing louder by the day. Gundlach is not expecting an interest-rate cut when the Fed meets next week. Instead, he notes the bond market is tipping two or three cuts by the end of the year.
As for where Gundlach is putting his money, he said he is “certainly long gold,” given expectations the dollar, which stands to take a hit if the Fed lowers interest rates, will close the year weaker.
Geopolitical jitters have driven gold GCQ19, +0.89% above a big technical level, and the dollar DXY, +0.27% is firmer. Oil CLN19, +0.13% is pulling back after Thursday’s big gains sparked by the Strait of Hormuz tanker attacks.
Stocks are lower across Europe SXXP, -0.64% weighed by weak China production data. Asia had a mostly down day, led by the Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HSI, -0.65% ahead of potential further unrest this weekend.
Worries of economy weakening have eased up after a strong retail sales report, while industrial production also beat forecasts. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index and business inventories are still to come.
The Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Bull & Bear Indicator is leaving us in suspense. Last week their key contrarian indicator made an exciting leap toward an area that indicated investors are so bearish it’s time to buy stocks.
Alas, in the latest week, as our chart of the day shows, the indicator has not budged, stuck at 2.5. The indicator’s main purpose is to chart whether investor buying or selling of stocks has moved too far on a zero to 10 scale. The indicator tumbled last week to that 2.5 level, from 3.6 the prior move.
The U.S. military on Friday released a video that it says shows Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers that was attacked near the Strait of Hormuz Thursday. Iran has denied any involvement.
Here’s Amazon AMZN, -0.21% firing back at former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who chided the e-commerce giant for not paying enough in taxes:
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FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
June 14, 2019
By Shreyashi Sanyal
(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures dropped on Friday, as the long-feared hit to global growth from President Trump’s trade war crystallized in slashed sales forecasts from chipmaker Broadcom, and signs of the worst slowdown in Chinese industry in 17 years.
Shares of Broadcom Inc plunged 9.8% in premarket trading, after it cut its revenue forecast for 2019 by $2 billion, blaming the U.S.-China trade conflict and export curbs on Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.
Data from China showed industrial output growth in the world’s second largest economy slowed to a more than 17-year low in May, sending a chill through stock market investors globally.
Nasdaq 100 e-minis pointed to a 59.5 point fall, or 0.79% fall at opening while Dow e-minis slid 52 points, or 0.2%, and S&P 500 e-minis 8.75 points, or 0.3%.
The S&P has gained about 5% in June so far on hopes the Federal Reserve will reduce interest rates soon to combat slowing global growth, a stark contrast to the steady path of monetary tightening it was on until the end of last year.
The Broadcom news was one of the clearest indications yet from the trade-sensitive tech sector of the scale of pain companies can expect from Washington’s stand-off with China.
Semiconductors stocks, who both source product and sell heavily in China, tumbled, with Intel Corp, Advanced Micro Devices Inc and Micron Technology Inc down between 2.2% and 4%. Shares of Apple Inc also slipped 1.2%.
A Fed meeting next week may provide the acid test of market expectations that the U.S. central bank could cut rates as much as three times this year, while a Group of 20 summit at the end of the month may yet yield more progress on a trade deal.
In the latest salvo between the two sides, China said on Friday it was raising anti-dumping duties on certain alloy-steel seamless tubes and pipes from the United States and the European Union by as much as 10 times.
On the macro front, the Commerce Department’s report on retail sales for May is expected to show a 0.6% rise at 8:30 a.m. ET, following a 0.2% drop in April.
(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)
The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, June7, 2019. REUTERS/Staff
June 14, 2019
By Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh
(Reuters) – Technology shares pushed European stock markets lower on Friday after U.S. chipmaker Broadcom warned of a broad slowdown in demand due to trade tensions and the U.S. ban on Chinese mobile phone company Huawei Technologies.
Disappointing industrial data out of China also dampened sentiment shortly after opening and the pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.48% by 0754 GMT, with Germany’s trade-sensitive DAX falling 0.5%.
The forecast of a $2 billion hit to sales at Broadcom, one of the biggest U.S. players in the chip sector, came as Chinese industrial output growth slowed to a more than 17-year of 5% in May and was among the clearest signs yet of the damage President Donald Trump’s trade war may do to global growth.
European semiconductor companies Infineon, AMS and STMicroelectronics, Siltronic, Dialog Semiconductor fell between 3% and 6%.
“Now you have a major company coming out and saying the trade war impact and Huawei’s fallout is clearly having an impact on end demand and that is weighing on sentiment,” said Mark Taylor, sales trader at Mirabaud Securities in London.
Adding to the downbeat mood, China said it was raising anti-dumping duties on certain alloy-steel seamless tubes and pipes imported from the United States and the European Union as much as 10 times from previous rates.
The benchmark STOXX index was still on course to post its second consecutive week of gains as expectations of more monetary easing in Europe and the United States offsets the concerns over growth that drove a sell-off in May.
Stocks are up 3% this month after falling 6% in May, the worst monthly performance in more than two years.
Utilities, typically a defensive play when the economic outlook turns down, was the only sector in the black, helped by a 1.2% rise in French firm Engie after it signed a deal with Fiat Chrysler to provide charging points for electric vehicles.
Scor SE rose 2.3%, and was the top gainer on the STOXX, after JP Morgan upgraded the French re-insurer shares to “overweight” from “neutral” ahead of a new 3-year strategic plan due to be outlined in September.
One big faller was DKSH Holdings, tumbling 7% after Credit Suisse downgraded shares of the Switzerland-based consultancy to “underperform”.
(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)
FILE PHOTO: Broadcom Limited company logo is pictured on an office building in Rancho Bernardo, California May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
June 14, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – European semiconductor stocks fell on Friday after U.S. chipmaker Broadcom warned a U.S.-China trade conflict and export restrictions on Huawei were causing a broad slowdown in demand for chips.
Shares in ASML, STMicroelectronics, Siltronic, ASM International, Infineon, and AMS tumbled by 2.7% to 6.6% as the warning reignited fears chipmakers would not keep to their promises of a second-half recovery.
“It’s not just Huawei, it’s deeper than that. Visibility is shot. OEMs [carmakers] aren’t ordering. Inventory concerns, which were supposed to ease, have not gone away,” said a trader.
“Goodbye H2 recovery hopes!” he added.
The falls in chipmakers – which make components used in sensors for smartphones, cars, and medical equipment – drove Europe’s tech sector index down 1%, the worst-performing sector in Europe on Friday morning.
They followed an overnight fall in U.S. semiconductor stocks after California-based Broadcom’s warning of a broad slowdown in chip demand.
The CEO of chipmaker Micron Technology also said the ban on Huawei brings uncertainty and disturbance to the semiconductor industry.
(Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Josephine Mason and Susan Fenton)
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., is an expert on how to get things done on Capitol Hill. Formerly the chief Republican deputy whip, McHenry is now the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking and regulation of financial markets and insurance. McHenry spoke with the Washington Examiner to discuss his agenda and his working relationship with Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the committee chairwoman. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’re in the minority in the House but have a Republican majority in the Senate. Does that give you increased leverage?
It does. You think about deal-making in the Senate. If you can come to a bipartisan consensus, you can produce a bill out of the Senate. I think of it that way in the House. These partisan bills that make it out of committee and have partisan outcomes on the House floor are dead in the Senate. If we’re going to get a bill signed into law, I need to be mindful of that in the vote totals there, so I think a lot about the Senate these days.
You’ve said you can work with Waters even though you have political differences. What are the areas you expect to be able to work on?
Anti-money laundering. Bank Secrecy Act reforms. I’m encouraged by her creation of the task force on fintech and the task force on artificial intelligence in financial services. But the three areas of authorization within our committee jurisdiction are three areas where we’ve committed to work with each other to try and find a bipartisan solution.
[Those three are the Export-Import Bank, the National Flood Insurance Program, and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. A preliminary agreement on a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program was reached the day after this interview.]
In a recent hearing, there seemed to be bipartisan agreement that the consumer credit rating system is broken. Is there bipartisan agreement on how to fix it?
Unfortunately, no. We could pass a narrow bill into law. A broad bill, though, I don’t think there’s enough consensus. Waters has a few hundred-page bill that she had in a previous Congress that is a non-starter on the Republican side. So this would have to be a narrow reform bill rather than some big piece of legislation.
Housing finance reform is a priority for the chairwoman. Is that an issue where you see enough momentum to actually get something done this Congress?
What I’ve asked [Federal Housing Finance Agency] Director [Mark] Calabria to provide, as he goes about his agenda, is to give us space and time for Congress to act. He has authorities under law with Treasury to do a number of really broad action items, and I recognize that legal authority he has. But what I’ve requested is for him to give us time to hammer things out and actually legislate. I think it’s one of the big agenda items left undone from the financial crisis. Of the two big nationalizations of the last decade, one was student loans and the other was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
I think there’s a real opportunity for us, in divided government, to achieve real fundamental reform of Fannie and Freddie. I’m ready, the intellectual framework is all there, the puzzle pieces are all laid out — now you just have to have the political will and the push to actually go put these pieces together for some new system or some modification for the existing system.
Is the time there? The conversation doesn’t seem to have started at the committee level.
Not in a meaningful way. I think there is time for us to work through this. But housing finance reform has to be bipartisan because there is no Democrat- or Republican-only vote coalition. We found that over the last 20-something years of attempts at housing finance reform. I’m interested in engaging, and I’m hoping that Chairwoman Waters will prioritize this. This summer is going to be quite interesting legislatively. July is going to be a hot month, I think, both for the House investigations and for what will begin with housing finance.
With Ex-Im, it seems like the administration is supportive of a reauthorization, given the nominees they put forward that were confirmed to be part of the board.
Yes, and the engagement we’ve had with the National Security Council and the National Economic Council and the president’s key staff when it comes to trade policy, we have, I think, reoriented the conversation around a bank that has an eye toward China and makes us more competitive against the China international agenda with “One Belt One Road.” I think reorienting that program around that is much more in keeping with the White House on a sweet spot.
And that would assuage concerns that were present during the last reauthorization fight?
Yes, because if this is connected with national security — how we ensure that our allies don’t have to fall prey to Huawei and 5G, how we utilize our technology globally, how we utilize our innovation globally — I think there’s a great opportunity for this. But it has to be a reoriented institution around those issues. If this is simply another business program to keep doing the old business line, I don’t have as much drive and passion around that.
FILE PHOTO: Broadcom Limited company logo is pictured on an office building in Rancho Bernardo, California May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
June 13, 2019
(Reuters) – Broadcom Inc on Thursday cut its full-year revenue forecast, blaming a broad-based slowdown in demand due to continued geopolitical uncertainties and impact of export restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.
Shares of the San Jose, California-based company fell 7.1% to $261.6 in extended trading.
“Our customers are actively reducing their inventory levels, and we are taking a conservative stance for the rest of the year,” Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan said in a statement.
The company, known for communications chips and powers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity in smartphones, lowered its full-year revenue forecast by $2 billion to $22.50 billion.
Shares of Broadcom have been under pressure after the U.S. government put Huawei on a trade blacklist last month.
Net revenue rose to $5.52 billion in the second quarter ended May 5, from $5.01 billion a year earlier, but missed analysts’ estimates of $5.68 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Net income attributable to ordinary shares fell to $691 million, or $1.64 per share, in the quarter, from $3.72 billion, or $8.33 per share, a year earlier. (https://reut.rs/2F8Mgyt)
Excluding items, the company earned $5.21 per share, beating analysts’ estimates of $5.16 per share.
(Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by James Emmanuel)
FILE PHOTO: Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) talks with military families about their hazardous living conditions during a meeting at the Peninsula Workforce Development Office in Newport News, Virginia, U.S. March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Ryan M. Kelly
June 13, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio on Thursday urged the Trump administration not to use Huawei Technologies Co as a bargaining chip in ongoing trade talks with China.
“Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security,” the senators wrote. “In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.” Trump said last month that while Huawei was “very dangerous” he could imagine Huawei potentially included in a trade deal with China.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)
FILE PHOTO: A Huawei company logo is seen at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia 2019 in Shanghai, China June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
June 13, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain cannot disregard U.S. restrictions on China’s Huawei in deciding whether the equipment maker can participate in the roll-out of next generation 5G networks, British digital minister Jeremy Wright said on Thursday.
“I don’t think it would be realistic not to recognize that, when you have a hugely interconnected sector, when you have a situation where even Huawei equipment has U.S. componentry and IP in it, you can’t disregard what the U.S. administration decide to do,” he told reporters.
“They are all factors to be considered and we are considering them.”
(Reporting by Kate Holton, editing by Paul Sandle)