China Telecom in talks to offer RIM's BlackBerry service

HONG KONG, June 26 (Reuters) - China Telecom 0728.HK, one of China's top three mobile carriers, said on Friday it has approached Research in Motion RIM.TO about possibly offering its popular BlackBerry mobile email service in China.

“The two companies have just started preliminary contacts,” China Telecom’s spokesman said, without providing more details.

A RIM spokeswoman had no comment on the situation.

China Telecom shares were up 3.44 percent in afternoon trade in Hong Kong.

China Mobile 0941.HK, China's dominant mobile carrier with more than two-thirds of the market, has offered BlackBerries in China since 2006, but has not strongly promoted the service.

China's other major mobile carrier, Unicom 0728.HK, has also said in the past that it was in talks with RIM about offering BlackBerry service. But a spokeswoman had no update on whether those talks were still ongoing.

“We view a potential tie-up of China Telecom and BlackBerry as a positive but not a game changer,” Goldman Sachs analyst Helen Zhu wrote in a research note.

She noted that China Mobile already offers BlackBerry service in China, and that the product has limited appeal to a broader mass audience.

China’s three main telecoms carriers have been seeking to beef up their offerings and differentiate themselves following a long-awaited restructuring of the industry and issuance of third-generation (3G) mobile licenses over the last year.

In addition to the BlackBerry talks, frequent media reports have said that both China Mobile and Unicom were talking with Apple AAPL.O at various times to bring the U.S. company's popular iPhone to China.

Reporting by Doug Young and Joanne Chiu; Editing by Ken Wills