Apple iPhone deal still under discussion: China Mobile chairman

Apple iPhone deal still under discussion: China Mobile chairman
China Mobile Ltd said it's still in talks with Apple Inc to sell iPhones amid mounting industry speculation that the pair are about to announce a deal to net the technology giant hundreds of millions of potential new customers.

Xi Guohua, the chairman of the world's largest mobile phone carrier, said on Wednesday morning that his company had no announcement to make on any deal to carry Apple's smartphones. Xi was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Guangzhou, a southern city of China.

(Also see: China Mobile says no iPhone deal with Apple yet)

A tie-up between the pair in the U.S. company's second-largest market after its home turf has been expected for some time and would boost Apple in its global rivalry with South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that an announcement would be made "around December 18". Xi's comment on Wednesday that talks were continuing was first reported by local media and later confirmed by company spokesman Ge Qi.

A deal with China Mobile could potentially be worth billions of dollars in revenue for Apple. Up to 759 million potential new China Mobile customers could gain access to iPhones, generating up to $3 billion in extra 2014 revenue - nearly a quarter of Apple's projected revenue growth in its current fiscal year.

(Also see: Why China Mobile iPhone tie-up is a big deal for Apple)

But after an expected initial surge, Apple is likely to find itself back in a battle with its main smartphone rival, South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

(Also see: After initial iPhone rush, China Mobile may see usual Apple vs. Samsung battle)

Xi also told the conference China Mobile aims to sell between 190 to 220 million handsets next year. He said the company plans to step up subsidies to cover the cost of handset sales after spending 27 billion yuan in 2013, according to the company's official account on the Sina Weibo microblogging service.

© Thomson Reuters 2013

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