The 32,000-kilometre mainland fibre-optic network of red-chip conglomerate Citic Pacific will be operational in the third quarter of this year, according to the company. The faster than expected progress in development was disclosed as the company reported a 5.62 per cent rise in attributable profit last year to $2.96 billion. The result was in line with expectations. Analysts said the operational schedule meant the company might reap earnings from the telecommunications business - the group's new investment focus - earlier than anticipated. Chairman Larry Yung Chi-kin said: 'We have positioned ourselves to be in the forefront of the future communications market in mainland China, and I am confident that prospects are excellent for good returns in future years. 'Our strategy is first to focus on developing a state-of-the-art modern telecommunications network in China. 'Once the infrastructure is developed, we will be able to utilise it in a wide range of applications and value-added services.' In January, Citic Pacific announced the acquisition of a 60 per cent interest in a fibre-optic network which will cover 23 provinces and municipalities and more than 200 cities. Mr Yung said spending on facilities for the network would cost $1 billion, but did not elaborate. Subject to Beijing's approval, Citic Pacific will also purchase a 50 per cent stake in Citic Guoan from its parent China International Trust & Investment Corp. Citic Guoan holds about 6 per cent in China Unicom and cable-television networks in Beijing, Wuhan, Shenyang and Chengdu. To emphasise its new investment focus in the mainland communications market, Mr Yung announced the appointment of three officials from Citic Beijing as executive directors of Citic Pacific. They are Chang Zhenming, vice-president of Citic Beijing, and Yao Jinrong, an executive director. Citic Guoan chairman Li Shilin has also been appointed as an executive director. Citic Pacific also appointed Carl Yung, the son of chairman Larry Yung, and Zhang Yichen, the new head of its technology division, as executive directors. Analysts said the appointment of Mr Li was aimed to deliver a message that the Guoan deal would go ahead. It had been rumoured Citic Pacific had faced obstacles in getting Beijing's approval to buy the Guoan stake from its parent. Mr Yung said: 'Citic Pacific is the company with a mainland background.' Once the telecoms market in the mainland became liberalised, the company would have an advantageous market position to compete and co-operate with new entrants, he said. Last year, the company's earnings mainly came from property, infrastructure and a contribution from its 25 per cent stake in Cathay Pacific Airways as well as its investments in CLP Holdings. The company has retained a 6.3 per cent stake in CLP after it sold a 15 per cent stake in October. Last year, the company posted a turnover of $26.42 billion, leaping from $14.73 billion the previous year. Profit from consolidated activities fell to $2.25 billion from $2.42 billion, while associated income amounted to $2.22 billion, up from $2.13 billion. Earnings per share were 139.4 cents, compared with last year's 132 cents. The company announced a full-year dividend of 275 cents. The company has about $16 billion in cash.