HONG KONG (Reuters) - AT&T (T.N) has increased the number of clients it has in the Greater China region by about 50 percent in the past year, a senior executive said on Thursday, and is now looking to target privately run Chinese companies.
AT&T now counts over 600 companies as its clients in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, including companies such as flag carrier Air China (601111.SS) and up from about 400 in 2009, said Johnny Ng, AT&T’s general manager for the Greater China region.
“Some companies in China are looking to expand through acquisitions, and this will help them become large multi-nationals, and that’s our focus,” Ng said in an interview.
Revenue from the region in the first nine months of 2010 rose about 21 percent, faster than the 13 percent recorded in the full year of 2009, Ng said.
While China is the world’s mobile market, it is largely off-limits to foreign operators such as AT&T and Vodafone (VOD.L), which have over the years resorted to setting up joint ventures or buying minority stakes instead.
AT&T has a 25 percent stake in a joint venture with China Telecom (0728.HK), the country’s largest fixed line operator, where it hires about 70 people.
Its 740 million strong subscriber base is shared between China Mobile (0941.HK), China Unicom (0762.HK) and China Telecom, and the government has not shown any intention of issuing licenses to foreign operators the way India has.
“There are some restrictions when you work in China, and we just have to work within those restrictions,” Ng said.
Reporting by Huang Yuntao and Kelvin Soh; Editing by Lincoln Feast