China Mobile said yesterday Lu Xiangdong had resigned as an executive director and vice-president of the telecommunications giant because of his inability to perform his duties amid a probe related to financial issues.
The company said in a filing to the stock exchange earlier this month that Lu was 'assisting judicial authorities in the investigation of suspected financial-related issues'.
Lu oversaw the Beijing-based carrier's development strategy, planning and construction, in addition to procurement, according to the company's annual report last year.
The resignation leaves the company's upper management depleted amid rising competition from industry rivals. Chairman Wang Jianzhou, 63, is expected to retire this year.
Wang said: 'I am ready to retire. As to when that will happen, it is up to the upper-level department to decide.'
Meanwhile, the company is still talking to Apple about offering iPhones to customers while rivals China Unicom and China Telecom are already issuing the popular smartphone.
'I can't reveal how many iPhone customers we have, 'but every month a big number of iPhone users subscribe to our service,' Wang said.
'Apple and China Mobile both hope to realise co-operation as soon as possible as it will benefit both sides.'
An HSBC research report this week said it expected China Mobile to be able to sell the iPhone 5 by September, and upgraded the company's stock to 'overweight' with a target price at HK$100.
China Mobile, the world's largest telecommunications operator with 649.6 million subscribers at the end of last year, yesterday reported net profit of 125.9 billion yuan (HK$153.9 billion) for last year, up 5.2 per cent from 119.6 billion yuan in 2010.
Revenue rose 8.8 per cent to 528 billion yuan.
The mainland is the world's biggest mobile-telephone market, with 987.6 million users by the end of January. But as its new users are mostly from the rural areas, the average revenue per user (arpu) has been decreasing in recent years.
China Mobile's monthly arpu for last year was 71 yuan, down 2.3 per cent from 2010.
The company said capital expenditure for this year would be 131.9 billion yuan, 2.6 per cent more than last year's 128.5 billion yuan. It will be used on upgrading its technology and coverage in the country.
This figure does not include the amount that will be spent on the construction of its 3G, or TD-SCDMA (time-division synchronous code division multiple access), and 4G, or TD-LTE (time-division long-term evolution) networks, as the money will come from parent firm China Mobile Communications.
Chief executive Li Yue said the company aimed to add 30 million 3G users this year. To realise this target, he said the firm would increase handset subsidies to 20 billion yuan, a rise of 17.6 per cent from last year.
China Mobile shares yesterday rose 0.53 per cent to close at HK$84.65.
China Mobile's profit margin last year as it delivered net profit of 125.9 billion yuan