* China Unicom's Q3 net rises 27 percent
* Q3 profit outperforms bigger rival China Mobile
* 3G additions rose strongly in September, helped boost
HONG KONG, Oct 25China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd
, the country's second-biggest mobile phone
operator, posted a 27 percent rise in third-quarter net profit
after subscribers on its 3G network increased strongly, although
the gain lagged estimates.
Net profit rose to 2.0 billion yuan ($320 million) in
July-September from 1.596 billion yuan a year earlier, according
to calculations by Reuters based on nine-month earnings data
released on Thursday. That compares with a forecast of 2.2
billion yuan in a Reuters poll of seven analysts.
The earnings growth beat the 1.3 percent profit gain posted
by bigger rival China Mobile Ltd, highlighting the
importance of the data business, which is more lucrative than
China Unicom added 3.17 million 3G users in September, the
highest number of monthly net additions this year, according to
"China Unicom has much better 3G services than China Mobile,
which means they'll have more migration from 2G to 3G and that
will mean they have the opportunity to lift their ARPU (average
revenue per user)," said Tsz Wang Tam, an analyst with DBS
Around 30 percent of China Unicom's total mobile
subscribers of more than 200 million users are 3G subscribers.
That percentage outpaces China Mobile's 10 percent but trails
behind China Telecom Corp Ltd's near 40 percent.
To expand its data subscriber base, China Unicom introduced
earlier this month a set of data plans aimed at enticing its 2G
users to upgrade to 3G, and the package is seen as the cheapest
in the market, analysts said.
China has over 1 billion mobile subscribers, but less than a
fifth are 3G users, with the rest using 2G technology, mostly in
Apart from competitive data plans, mobile carriers have also
been subsidising handsets to attract 3G subscribers.
Among the country's mobile operators, China Unicom currently
shoulders the smallest subsidy burden.
It started carrying Apple Inc's iPhones in 2009 -
the first Chinese mobile operator to sell the popular smartphone
- and has since cut back on handset subsidies after the initial
rush to gain new data subscribers with the device.
China Telecom, which introduced the iPhone just this year,
is still feeling the pain of hefty subsidies.
China Mobile does not have a contract with Apple to sell
iPhones. Among the iPhone models, only the latest iPhone 5 is
compatible with China Mobile's unique homegrown standard for its
Shares in China Unicom ended 1.8 percent higher,
outperforming the main Hang Seng Index's 0.2 percent
gain, before the earnings announcement.
China Unicom reported a nine-month net profit of 5.45
billion yuan, up from a revised 4.21 billion yuan a year
earlier, and compared with a consensus forecast of 5.6 billion
yuan from the Reuters poll.