China Unicom profit jumps 79 pct on 4G, fixed-line businesses

Sijia Jiang

HONG KONG, April 21 (Reuters) - State-owned China Unicom

Hong Kong Ltd said on Friday first-quarter profit

surged 79 percent as it focused on its 4G mobile broadband

service, while its fixed-line segment maintained steady growth.

China Unicom's net profit rose to 862 million yuan ($125

million) for the January-March period, from 480 million a year

earlier, it said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

The company added 18.2 million 4G subscribers during the

period, taking the total to 122.7 million. Mobile billing

average revenue per user was 46.7 yuan, up slightly compared to

the full-year average of last year.

China Unicom last month reported a 94 percent drop in profit

for 2016..

The company is expected to announce an ownership reform that

could introduce private companies including China's major

internet giants as new shareholders, as part of a pilot

mixed-ownership reform scheme for China's state-owned

enterprises.

The group said in filings earlier this month that its

Shanghai-listed unit, China United Network Communications Ltd

, would be used as the platform for the reform,

instead of its Hong Kong-listed unit.

Analysts said mixed ownership reform could be a game-changer

in the long run for China Unicom, the worst performer among

China's state-owned telecommunication operators, but it would be

challenging to carry out substantial restructuring.

Shares of China Unicom closed down 1.7 percent ahead of the

earnings, lagging a flat broader market.

In March, China Unicom reported a drop in revenue and profit

for 2016, and was bracing for further challenges as the Beijing

government calls on telecommunications network operators to

lower rates.

($1 = 6.8835 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Anne Marie Roatnree and

Amrutha Gayathri)