Gains in mobile and fixed-lines boost HKT profit by 32pc

Operator pursues complaint over Apple's policy on phone locking as net profit jumps 32 per cent

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 1:46am

Hong Kong Telecommunications (HKT), which reported a 32 per cent increase in net profit for last year, said its mobile operation could have posted more gains if it was not constrained by Apple's phone-locking policy.

"Our business could have been better. We could have sold a lot of iPhone 5s," HKT group managing director Alex Arena said yesterday.

HKT, the flagship mobile and fixed-line network division of Richard Li Tzar-kai's PCCW, has applied to the High Court for a judicial review against how the Office of the Communications Authority (Ofca) handled its complaint against Apple's locking of SIMs (subscriber identification modules).

In its first full-year financial results announcement, HKT Trust and operating firm HKT said net profit rose to HK$1.61 billion from HK$1.22 billion a year earlier.

SIM locks are bad. Apple has them, and yet the regulator is not acting on its own policy … We're speaking up on behalf of the consumers

HKT Trust and HKT represent the telecommunications business spun off by PCCW, which holds more than 60 per cent of the total issued share stapled units in the city's first listed business trust.

HKT chief financial officer Susanna Hui Hon-hing attributed that strong performance to "stellar growth" by subsidiary PCCW mobile and gains made in international fixed-line telecommunications services.

Total revenue grew 6 per cent to HK$18.36 billion. Mobile service revenue jumped 25 per cent to HK$2.46 billion, while international telecommunications services revenue also rose 25 per cent to HK$5.24 billion.

In its lawsuit against Ofca, HKT estimated its direct losses as of December as a result of Apple's SIM-locking practice totalled "in the hundreds of millions of Hong Kong dollars". That has kept the iPhone 5 and the 4G-ready models of the iPad and the iPad mini from being connected to PCCW mobile's high-speed 4G network. Its subscribers can connect those devices only to the slower 3G network.

HKT's complaint contends that the regulator must enforce the existing government policy against SIM locking.

"It's been in place for nearly 16 years … SIM locks are bad," Arena said. "Apple has them, and yet the regulator is not acting on its own policy … We're speaking up on behalf of the consumers."