China Mobile has replaced CEO Wang Jianzhou with vice-president Li Yue.
The departure of Wang, 61, had been widely expected because he had passed the retirement age for state-owned enterprise executives. He had been in the post since he was shifted from the top job at China Unicom in November 2004.
As head of the country’s largest telco, Wang had become unofficial spokesman for the industry over the past five years
However, he continues as China Mobile chairman and, more importantly, Party secretary, remaining the most powerful figure in the company. Senior positions such as these in Chinese SOE are determined by the Communist Party Organization Committee and are rubber-stamped by the board.
The company said in a statement that Li’s elevation enabled it “to comply with the best practice for corporate governance of separating the roles of chairman and chief executive officer.”
Li, 51, a telecom industry veteran, has been on the board since 2003. He is a graduate of Tianjin University.
Wang’s last act as CEO was to unveil a better than expected 4% rise in 1H profits to 57.64 billion yuan ($8.5b), as revenues grew 7.9% to 229.8 billion yuan.
The figures were boosted by China’s strong economy and came despite intense competition and growing mobile penetration in the market, the firm said. Ebitda was up 6.1% to 116 billion.
The carrier boosted its subscriber base by 31.8 million during 1H, taking its total to 554 million.
Samsung Securities analyst Paul Wuh said he was concerned about the impact of the rise in rural subscribers on ARPU, Bloomberg reported, noting that roughly half the users added during the period were based in rural areas.