TIANJIN, China, Sept 13 (Reuters) - British fixed-line telecoms giant BT Group Plc (BT.L) said on Monday that it will meet with officials from China Telecom Corp Ltd (0728.HK), the smallest of China’s three telecommunications carriers, to explore potential cooperation, a move that would strengthen its ties with the world’s largest telecoms market.
BT Chief Information Officer Clive Selley told Reuters he was scheduled to meet China Telecom officials later in the week during his visit to China, which included a stop in the coastal city of Tianjin for the World Economic Forum.
He said potential programmes in which the pair could cooperate included fibre-optic broadband, as China Telecom operates a fixed-line network similar to BT’s that it is upgrading for higher speed data transmission capabilities that make Web surfing and file downloading faster.
He declined to comment on the potential for cross-investment between the two companies. China Telecom was previously the lone company among China’s major three operators without a major foreign strategic partner.
No.2 player, China Unicom (0762.HK), counts Spain’s Telefonica SA (TEF.MC) as a major stakeholder. Dominant mobile carrier China Mobile Ltd (0941.HK) counted Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L) as a strategic stakeholder until this week, when the European carrier sold its 3 percent stake as part of a drive to offload non-core investments.
Any tie-up between China Telecom and BT would mark the second major pairing in China for the British company, which already has a close relationship with leading Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL].
Huawei is one of several major suppliers to BT’s ongoing 2.5 billion pound ($3.84 billion) upgrade of its fixed-line network, aimed at bringing fibre-optic capability to two-thirds of the network over five years. (Reporting by Doug Young and Qu Weizhi, Editing by Don Durfee and Chris Lewis)