China Unicom says parent merger with Netcom completed

SHANGHAI, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Mobile phone operator China Unicom 0762.HK said late Tuesday that the merger between its parent and China Netcom's parent had been completed, paving the way for China to issue long-awaited licences for next generation (3G) mobile networks.

“On 6 January 2009, the Company was notified...that the merger of Unicom Parent and Netcom Parent...through the absorption of Netcom Parent by Unicom Parent has been approved by SASAC and has become effective,” China Unicom said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

SASAC is the China central government’s state asset management bureau.

The merger is part of a sweeping, government-led restructuring of China’s telecommunications sector that was launched in June to speed the roll-out of high-speed third-generation mobile phone services in the country.

China’s state council, or cabinet, said last week it had approved the issuance of licences for 3G mobile networks, opening the door to $41 billion in spending for equipment.

But the cabinet has yet to say when the licences would be issued by the Ministry of Industry of Information, though the industry minister has said it would happen by early 2009. (Reporting by Lu Jianxin; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)