Apple CEO visits China for second time in less than a year

SHANGHAI Tue Jan 8, 2013 9:41pm EST

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to the audience during an Apple event in San Jose, California October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to the audience during an Apple event in San Jose, California October 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Apple Inc's Chief Executive Tim Cook is meeting with partners and government officials in China on his second visit to the firm's second-largest market in less than a year.

China is Apple's fastest-growing market, with the maker of the popular iPhone and iPad opening a raft of retail stores last year. Last month, Apple sold more than 2 million iPhone 5s in the country in just three days, the company's best ever smartphone launch in the country.

Despite the roaring success of iPhone sales in China, analysts say the company's longer-term outlook in the market may hinge on expanding its partners to include China Mobile Ltd, the country's top telecoms carrier.

"Tim is in Beijing meeting with government officials and partners. China is an important market for us and we look forward to continued customer excitement and growth here," Apple's spokeswoman in China Carolyn Wu said on Wednesday.

She declined to say whether or not Cook would be meeting with China Mobile executives.

In China, the iPhone is currently sold through Apple's seven stores, resellers and through China Unicom and China Telecom - which together have fewer than half the mobile subscribers of bigger rival China Mobile.

A deal with China's biggest carrier is seen as crucial to improving Apple's distribution in a market of 290 million users. Apple has been in talks on a tie-up with China Mobile for four years.

China Mobile and Apple initially said they were separated only by a technical issue - as the Chinese carrier runs a different 3G network from most of the world - but that has evolved into a broader and more complex issue of revenue-sharing.

On Tuesday, Cook met with the Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Miao Wei, where they discussed the development of the smartphone industry and innovation trends, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website.

China, Apple's biggest market after the United States, currently accounts for about 15 percent of its annual revenue.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Ryan Woo)

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