China Unicom posted a more than fivefold increase in profit in 2018, as it continued to add 4G customers at a brisk pace and recorded double-digit data revenue growth.
During 2018 it added 45 million 4G subscribers, ending the year with 220 million. Its total subscriber base grew by nearly 31 million to 315 million, though market share of 20 per cent was unchanged from 2017.
In a statement, chairman and CEO Wang Xiaochu said the government’s mixed-ownership reform, which involved selling a 35 per cent stake to a group of 14 strategic investors in August 2017, had powered the company with differentiated advantages, bringing new opportunities for development.
He noted the company faces downward pressure in its traditional services, and challenges arising from intensified market competition and implementation of a government policy to lower tariffs and increase mobile broadband speeds. These difficulties have prompted China Unicom “to further deepen its internet-oriented transformation” and accelerate “the pace of high quality development”.
Net profit for the year jumped to CNY10.2 billion ($1.52 billion) from CNY1.83 billion in 2017. Service revenue increased 5.9 per cent year-on-year to CNY263.7 billion.
Mobile service revenue rose 5.5 per cent to CNY165 billion, which the operator said exceeded the industry average of 0.6 per cent. Data service turnover increased 11.3 per cent to CNY218 billion, while voice revenue dropped 13.9 per cent to CNY46 billion.
Full-year capex rose slightly from 2017 to CNY44.9 billion, with 42 per cent allocated to mobile networks. It installed 140,000 4G base stations, bringing its total number of sites to nearly 1 million.
The government allocated 5G spectrum in the mid-band frequency range to the three state-owned mobile operators in December 2018, with China Unicom receiving 100MHz in the 3.5GHz band. A Ministry of Industry and Information Technology representative said the licences will be issued “soon”, C114.net reported.
China Unicom said it is actively promoting 5G network and industry application trials in key cities, and plans to expand the scale of the trials based on the results achieved and maturity of equipment.
Rivals China Mobile and China Telecom both release 2018 results next week.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back