China Mobile says keen on iPhone, but not in talks

BEIJING, March 3 (Reuters) - China Mobile 0941.HK, the world's largest mobile phone operator, said on Monday it had not officially entered into talks with Apple Inc AAPL.O to bring iPhones to the mainland, but was interested in doing so.

In January, China Mobile said talks with Apple on launching the U.S. company’s popular iPhones had been called off, although Apple has never commented officially on the issue.

“We have not yet officially begun talks with Apple over the iPhone problem,” China Mobile Chief Executive Wang Jianzhou told reporters on the sidelines of an annual parliament advisory body meeting.

“As long as our customers want this kind of product, we will keep all options open,” said Wang.

Investors had cheered Apple possibly winning access to China Mobile’s 350 million subscribers -- more than the population of the United States -- when news of talks helped Apple’s stock climb more than 10 percent on Nov. 13.

The iPhone, a hot-selling cellphone that allows Internet access and plays music, sells for about $500 in the United States -- roughly double the average monthly salary in China.

IPhone would first have to resolve technical, content and fee issues unique to China, including Apple’s revenue-sharing agreement that China Mobile would find hard to accept, analysts said.

Apart from China, Apple had also initiated talks with NTT DoCoMo Inc 9437.T and Softbank Corp 9984.T to bring its multimedia device to Japan, although sources at both Japanese firms said revenue sharing was again a hotly contested issue. (US$=7.105 yuan) (Reporting by Kirby Chien; Editing by Edmund Klamann)