Chinese smartphone brand Oppo has announced the resignation of its global marketing president Brian Shen Yiren at a time when vendors in the market are being hammered by the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“Current president of global marketing Brian Shen Yiren will step down from his position due to personal health reasons,” Oppo said in a statement on its official website on Monday. “We look forward to him returning to the Oppo family.”

Staff work at the Oppo factory in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on February 13. (Picture: Xinhua)

Liu Lie, who previously served as the company’s brand director, has assumed Shen’s role as president of global marketing as well as doubling as chief marketing officer for mainland China. Liu will oversee worldwide marketing efforts, reporting directly to Oppo founder and CEO Tony Chen Mingyong, the statement added.

Oppo’s management changes come amid the global coronavirus pandemic which has sickened millions and forced the temporary closure of smartphone factories around the world after authorities imposed restrictions on large groups of people gathering in one place.

Oppo, the world’s fifth largest smartphone vendor, earlier last month launched a 5G flagship phone with a starting price of 5,499 yuan (US$784). The Find X2 series, the most expensive phone released by the company, is part of a strategy to promote the brand in mature overseas markets and signals growing ambitions in China’s higher-end smartphone segment currently dominated by Huawei with a more than 80% share.

“Due to the rapid development of Oppo in the global market, we need to adopt a better global deployment,” the company said. “Operating in global markets is not just about selling products to the world, but integrating and utilizing global resources as well as continuing to deepen our commitment to each market.”

The Find X2 series, available in 30 countries and regions outside China, could also take global market share from Huawei, which has seen its international sales hurt by a US ban imposed in May last year that prohibits it from using Google apps like Gmail and YouTube on its phones.

However, Oppo and local rivals Xiaomi and Vivo have faced stiffer competition at home after Huawei doubled down on efforts to expand domestic sales amid the US blacklist that curtailed its efforts to woo overseas buyers.

While Shen has participated in some interviews and public events such as economic forums, his public appearances are few and far between compared with his peers at Xiaomi and Huawei. Shen said on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform that he “will take a rest for some time due to health problems,” but did not disclose his future plans.

Oppo’s domestic sales fell 20% last year, according to research firm IDC. Oppo said that since September more than half its smartphone shipments have been outside mainland China, and the company expects its proportion of overseas sales will increase with its push into new markets.