China’s ‘Big Three’: Unicom stumbles whilst Mobile and Telecom see steady growth

29 Oct 2015

China Mobile has registered a 9.9% year-on-year increase in turnover for the three months ended 30 September 2015, as subscribers continue to migrate from 2G and 3G to more lucrative 4G plans. The cellco booked revenue of CNY172.01 billion (USD27.01 billion) for the period, up from CNY156.55 billion twelve months earlier, whilst EBITDA reached CNY65.48 billion – an increase of 12.8% y-o-y. Profit attributable to shareholders, meanwhile, grew by 13.3% y-o-y to CNY28.16 billion. In terms of subscribers, the cellco’s total user base edged up slightly from end-June 2015, expanding from 817.2 million to 822.91 million. The number of users signed up to 4G plans grew by more than 50 million during the three months under review, expanding from 189.66 million to 247.62 million, with LTE subscribers now representing just over 30% of Mobile’s customers. The cellco also now represents a similar proportion of the world’s 4G subscriptions: according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, there were approximately 767.16 million LTE users worldwide at the end of June 2015.

By contrast, China Unicom reported a decline in revenue, booking turnover of CNY211.91 billion for the nine months ended 30 September 2015, compared to CNY215.34 billion in the corresponding period of 2014. Consequently, profit also slumped, dipping to CNY8.18 billion from CNY10.56 billion. Unicom attributed the decline to the impact of the replacement of a business tax with VAT in mid-2014. The operator’s mobile base continued to decline, albeit at a slower rate, falling by 0.6% to 287.57 million in the three months to end-September 2015, compared to a 1.8% slump in the April-June period. On a more positive note, Unicom saw gains in the fixed segment, adding 1.10 million net new broadband customers in July-September and bringing the total up to 71.69 million.

China Telecom, the smallest of China’s ‘Big Three’ operators, booked a 1.1% increase in operating revenue for the nine months ended 30 September 2015, fuelled by growth in its wireless and fixed broadband user bases. The telco registered turnover of CNY246.32 billion for 9M 2015, of which CNY221.07 billion was service revenue. Both operating profit and net profit grew by 1.2% y-o-y, to CNY25.69 billion and CNY16.41 billion respectively. Telecom’s mobile user base was 194.34 million at end-September 2015 – including 136.81 million 3G/4G subscribers – compared to 191.44 million (131.00 million 3G/4G) three months earlier. Fixed broadband connections, meanwhile, edged up to 111.09 million from 109.56 million at end-June 2015.

China, China Mobile, China Telecom Corporation, China Unicom