Nokia aims to become No 1 in mobile telephones in China this year and will continue to invest heavily on research and development (R&D), according to the president of the company's mainland operations. Urpo Karjalainen, announcing the company's 2001 results, said Nokia came close to being No 1 in China last year and was confident of making it to the top this year. He declined to comment on Nokia's market share or those of its major competitors, Motorola and Ericsson. Analysts said Motorola had a slight lead over Nokia, with Ericsson in third place. China is the world's largest market for mobile phones, with 145 million users by the end of last year. Official estimates show about 55 million units will be sold this year. However, the number of users may be misleading as a good number subscribe in various cities to avoid paying roaming fees. Mainland brands have seen their market share rise steadily from 3 per cent in 1999, 8 per cent in 2000 and 13 per cent to 15 per cent last year. The three foreign giants - Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia - have the remainder. China Daily reported last month that local firms - including TCL, HiSense and Haier Group - were expecting a market share of 30 per cent this year and more than 50 per cent next year. Mr Karjalainen said the Chinese market would grow this year at the same pace as the global average of 10 per cent to 15 per cent, with handset replacements increasing to about half the total market volume. Nokia chief spokesman Lauri Kivinen said that last year, for the third consecutive year, China was Nokia's second-largest market after the United States, ahead of Britain and Germany. He said global net sales for last year were 32.1 billion euros (about HK$215.56 billion), of which Asia-Pacific accounted for 26 per cent, up from 23 per cent in 2000. 'Our global market share was 37 per cent, up from 32 per cent in 2000,' he said. Mr Kivinen said that last year, Europe accounted for less than 50 per cent of sales for the first time, falling to 49 per cent, while sales in the Asia-Pacific region rose 16 per cent, higher than the global average. Nokia's sales last year in China were worth 3.4 billion euros, up from 3.2 billion in 2000, with exports of Nokia's Chinese-made products amounting to 2.5 billion euros, up from 1.7 billion. By the end of last year, the firm had invested 2.3 billion euros in China in eight joint ventures employing 5,000 people, more than 95 per cent of them local. Its biggest investment - the single largest foreign investment in Beijing - is the Xingwang (International) Industrial Park, which opened late last year. It contains plant and R&D facilities operated by Nokia and its international and local partners. 'It is a new way of manufacturing,' Mr Karjalainen said. 'We have got rid of inventories. It is the first in the world.' The company also has set up an R&D centre in Hangzhou in what the city government calls Silicon Paradise.