China Mobile lands in London
21 February 2008
Chinese operator becomes latest to open U.K. HQ; seeks partners with local players to further EMEA ambitions.
China Mobile on Thursday became the latest Chinese telecoms operator to open an office in London.
The mobile giant announced that it will base its European and African headquarters in the U.K. capital, a move which some have taken as an indication that China Mobile is keen to further its international presence.
Indeed, on Thursday the U.K.’s Financial Times reported that China Mobile is considering setting up a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in Europe, but will prioritise emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa this year.
However, the company has yet to make any formal, detailed announcement on its plans.
“It is important that we have a strong European presence,” said Henry Ge, chief representative of China Mobile, in a statement. “London is the best place for us to be as it is at the heart of technology convergence in Europe, and offers us access to the technical capability and expert talent we need in order to grow our business.”
Meanwhile, Lord Digby Jones, Minister for Trade and Investment in the U.K., noted that the move is a sign of the deepening ties between China and the U.K.
“We provide a base from which to access not just European, but those markets around the world which are a perfect fit for their expansion plans,” he added.
Separately, the FT quoted China Mobile’s Ge as saying that the company will focus on three key areas: emerging markets; ex-pat Chinese users making calls back home; and “the short-term visiting market”, such as business customers and tourists.
Ge added that the company is keen to partner with existing players in the market to speed up its growth plans.
China Mobile follows its fellow state-owned, fixed-line telcos into London. China Netcom opened its U.K. headquarters and European subsidiary in November, while China Telecom inaugurated its London office in September 2006. Both announced their intention to partner with local telecoms companies.
The news comes as speculation mounts over China’s long-awaited telecoms industry restructuring.
It is widely believed that China Mobile will tie up with fixed-line player China Tietong, while China Telecom and China Netcom respectively will swallow up the CDMA and GSM businesses of China Unicom.
A decision could be announced next month.
China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile operator, ending 2007 with 369.3 million subscribers. By comparison, international mobile giant Vodafone passed the 250 million mark in the most recent quarter.
The China telecommunications industry restructuring is being done with the direct involvement of the China Ministry of Information. It has already been decided who is going to run each new business group. Look for announcements following the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.