China Mobile – the world’s largest operator by subscribers – is feeling the effects of the global downturn and increasing competition in its home market after posting its slowest growth in interim profit since the company listed in 1997. For the first six months, net income was CNY55.3 billion (US$8 billion), up only 1.4 percent from CNY54.1 billion a year ago. Revenue rose 8.9 percent to CNY212.9 billion. In a statement, the operator noted that “macroeconomic slowdown, a rising mobile communications penetration rate and changes in the competitive environment of the telecommunications industry in China have posed challenges to the development of the Group’s business in the first half of 2009.”

China Mobile grew its subscriber base by 35.87 million in the six-month period to end-June, totalling 493 million (959,000 of which were using 3G services). By the end of July, its total subscriber count was 497.7 million and its 3G subscriber base totalled 1,088,000. Monthly ARPU in the six-month period was CNY75, down from CNY84 a year ago. Revenue from its ‘value-added business’ (mobile content) grew 13.7 percent, accounting for 28.1 percent of total company revenue. That growth precededed this week’s high-profile launch of its ‘Mobile Market’ application store. Meanwhile, the company noted that it will continue to develop its TD-LTE network technology and will also “actively search for quality overseas telecommunications assets as investment opportunities and as a way to explore international development.” On the subject of overseas expansion, the operator stated that it and Taiwan’s Far EasTone “are now actively preparing the application for approvals from the relevant regulatory authorities” in order for China Mobile to close its planned US$527 million acquisition of a 12 percent stake in the Taiwanese firm. According to reports this week, China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou is seeking a meeting with Taiwan’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Yiin Chii-ming, when he visits the island shortly. Taiwan has so far blocked any investment from mainland China companies in its own telecoms sector.