China Telecom profit up 17.9 percent

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BEIJING (AP) — China Telecom Ltd., one of China's three major state-owned phone carriers, said Tuesday its latest quarterly profit rose 17.9 percent despite intense competition and weak growth in mobile subscriber numbers.

The Beijing-based carrier earned 5.5 billion yuan ($915 million) in the three months ending March 31. Revenue rose 6.9 percent over a year earlier to 83.2 billion ($13.9 billion) but costs also grew rapidly.

Network-related expenses rose 30.6 percent. The carrier's total number of mobile phone accounts rose by only 2.4 million during the quarter to 183.2 million, reflecting competition for new subscribers by China Mobile Ltd. and China Unicom Ltd.

China Telecom cited intense competition as Chinese carriers spend heavily to expand service and roll out fourth-generation technology.

The company said it is building a 4G network after receiving a license in December for service based on the LTE standard. It also is applying for a second 4G license for the LTE-FDD standard, which should increase its market appeal.

"We expect CT to turn more aggressive" later in the year, said Barclays analysts in a report. "Its mobile subscriber trend should pick up once it launches 4G services on mobile phones and obtains FDD-LTE licenses."

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