China Telecom has reported a sharp increase in its net profit for 2015 thanks to one-off gains from the sale of telecom towers and related assets last year.
Profit surged 13.4% year-on-year to 20.05 billion yuan ($3.07 billion) on the back of a one-time gain of 3.94 billion yuan from the transfer of towers and other infrastructure to China Tower, the JV formed by the three telcos last year.
Revenues rose 2.1% to 331.20 billion yuan, while EBITDA fell 0.8% to 94.11 billion yuan, impacted by a number of regulatory changes and higher costs.
In its 2015 annual results, China Telecom said revenue growth was mainly driven by its mobile businesses, with revenue rising 3.5% to 124.50 billion yuan. Fixed service revenue increased 1% to 168.76 billion yuan.
China Telecom finished the year with 58.46 million 4G customers, or more than a quarter of its total mobile subscriber base of nearly 200 million customers. The operator’s 4G ARPU stood at 78 yuan, against the 58.46 yuan of blended ARPU.
The operator added more than 51 million 4G customers last year after it received government approval to provide a nationwide 4G service in February.
Mobile data traffic doubled last year, with 4G contributing 51%. Monthly average data traffic per 4G user increased by 25% year-on-year to 751 MB. By January-February this year, 4G customers averaged 850 MB per month.
By comparison, biggest rival China Mobile had 312 million TD-LTE customers, while China Unicom, the country’s second largest mobile carrier, had 44 million 4G customers.
Looking ahead, China Telecom said “2016 is a crucial year for the company in building up a more favorable market position for the future,” adding that the company will strengthen the core competence in network and operation and grasp the opportunities from the scale-up and value enhancement of its 4G and fiber broadband businesses.
China Telecom president and COO Yang Jie said China Telecom aims to add 60 million 4G subscribers this year. The operator plans to add 290,000 more 4G base stations by the year-end, bringing the total to around 800,000, as it expands coverage in towns and rural areas.
China Telecom also plans to deploy 4G+ in all cities, start testing 800-MHz band spectrum and prepare for the launch of VoLTE in 2017.
The company expects capex to fall to around 97 billion this year from 109 billion in 2015, with nearly half of spending going towards 4G.
In addition, China Telecom will expand its FTTH network by another 50 million homes passed, to a total 270 million. The company saw a strong growth in its FTTH business last year, with net additions of 28.38 million customers for a total 70.99 million of wireline broadband subscribers.