SHENZHEN — Edelman's relationship with Huawei has ended before it started, the Holmes Report can reveal, with the agency bowing out before it was contracted as one of the Chinese tech giant's key corporate PR agencies.

The remarkable turn of events follows Edelman's selection, along with BCW, to handle Huawei's corporate PR remit after a lengthy competitive pitch process. That decision, confirmed by both Huawei international media affairs VP Joe Kelly and Edelman Hong Kong MD Adrian Warr, saw Edelman entrusted with lead duties on strategic planning, influencer marketing, media engagement and market insight for the company's PACD unit, which oversees its global corporate reputation from Shenzhen.

However, an Edelman spokesperson confirmed to the Holmes Report that the agency had chosen not to sign contracts after being selected for the seven-figure assignment. Further details regarding the basis for that decision were not disclosed, although Edelman does count a significant global relationship with Huawei rival Samsung.

Kelly also confirmed that Huawei is not working with Edelman.

BCW, meanwhile, remains in place and has begun working on the assignment. The remit has taken on added complexity in recent months, following the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request. Meng's father, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, has warned staff "to prepare for times of hardship", as the US, along with its Five Eyes allies — the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand — have moved to bar the company from 5G networks.

Despite the geopolitical opposition to Huawei's expansion, the company continues to grow. Its consumer business, which is also reviewing global PR duties, now sells more smartphones than Apple, while its telecoms unit has an estimated 40% market share in Europe.