| HONG KONG
HONG KONG State-owned China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd (0762.HK) said on Friday first-quarter profit surged 79 percent as it focused on its 4G mobile broadband service, while its fixed-line segment maintained steady growth.
China Unicom's net profit rose to 862 million yuan ($125 million) for the January-March period, from 480 million a year earlier, it said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.
The company added 18.2 million 4G subscribers during the period, taking the total to 122.7 million. Mobile billing average revenue per user was 46.7 yuan, up slightly compared to the full-year average of last year.
China Unicom last month reported a 94 percent drop in profit for 2016..
The company is expected to announce an ownership reform that could introduce private companies including China's major internet giants as new shareholders, as part of a pilot mixed-ownership reform scheme for China's state-owned enterprises.
The group said in filings earlier this month that its Shanghai-listed unit, China United Network Communications Ltd (600050.SS), would be used as the platform for the reform, instead of its Hong Kong-listed unit.
Analysts said mixed ownership reform could be a game-changer in the long run for China Unicom, the worst performer among China's state-owned telecommunication operators, but it would be challenging to carry out substantial restructuring.
Shares of China Unicom closed down 1.7 percent ahead of the earnings, lagging a flat broader market .HSI.
In March, China Unicom reported a drop in revenue and profit for 2016, and was bracing for further challenges as the Beijing government calls on telecommunications network operators to lower rates.
($1 = 6.8835 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Anne Marie Roatnree and Amrutha Gayathri)