SmarTone Telecommunications chief executive Hubert Ng Ching-wah has resigned from the company, one month after the mobile-phone operator reported a 41 per cent drop in earnings in the year to June 30. Mr Ng, who will leave the company at the end of next month, will be replaced by Ian Stone, an executive director at First Pacific Group's telecoms operations. Mr Stone also will take a seat on SmarTone's board. Mr Ng, who joined SmarTone in 1996, cited 'personal reasons' for deciding to leave the company. 'I only recently made the decision to leave this company on my own and make my own career opportunities,' he said. 'It is for the good of myself, nothing to do with the shareholders, nothing to do with the staff.' Mr Ng declined to say what his immediate career plans were, but said he intended to remain in the telecoms field in Hong Kong. SmarTone - Hong Kong's third-largest mobile-telephone operator - last month reported a drop in earnings to $604 million for the year. Turnover fell 25 per cent to $3.07 billion. The operator claims to have about 660,000 mobile subscribers. Analysts said they doubted whether Mr Ng was forced to step down because of the company's problems. 'There's no way you can blame [Mr Ng] for what's happened in the industry,' said Peter Milliken, an analyst at DBS Securities. Mr Milliken said the SAR's entire mobile sector had suffered from shrinking profit margins due to fierce competition. '[Mr Ng] has done very well.' Another analyst said Mr Ng's departure probably would not have an effect on SmarTone's prospects. However, 'I wouldn't say [Mr Ng's resignation] is a good thing', he said. '[Mr Ng] has been around for a while and knows the market. The question is, is it going to be difficult for Ian Stone to fit in?' Mr Stone, who is based in the Philippines, is the senior adviser to the country's dominant telecoms operator, Philippine Long Distance Telephone. He is also the executive director of Asialink, the holding company for First Pacific's telecoms operations in Asia. Before joining First Pacific in 1997, Mr Stone worked at Hongkong Telecom (now Cable & Wireless HKT), where he served in various positions, among them commercial director. He was also a managing director at the operator's CSL mobile unit. As the managing director of Pacific Link, Mr Stone was instrumental in negotiating the $4.83 billion sale of the mobile operator from then-parent First Pacific to Hongkong Telecom last year. Analysts said Mr Stone had the background necessary to lead SmarTone as the operator expands from its core mobile-phone business. Earlier this year, SmarTone launched a long-distance call service and Internet service. 'Ian Stone seems to have the background and experience in a wide range of areas,' Mr Milliken said. Another analyst said: 'He has been in this market before and knows the business.' A key task for Mr Stone will be to reverse SmarTone's negative earnings growth. Mr Stone, who was in Hong Kong yesterday, said SmarTone was examining ways to create new revenue. 'We have to look at the Internet, we have to look at new opportunities via new licences,' he added. Last month, SmarTone applied to the Government for a wireless fixed-network licence as well as an external facilities licence.