Citic Telecom International posted a 2.1 per cent year-on-year increase in net profit to HK$238.8 million in the first half of this year and said it was confident of healthy growth in the second half despite intense competition. The telecommunications services provider yesterday reported a revenue growth of 16.9 per cent from a year earlier to HK$1.74 billion. Turnover of voice services in the first half rose 12.4 per cent to HK$1.04 billion from the same period last year. Data businesses and mobile value-added services showed strong growth momentum, rising 32.4 per cent and 24.4 per cent respectively during the period to HK$426 million and HK$96 million. Citic Telecom has recently completed research and development work for a voice communication application for smartphones, branded Hippi. It will work on both Apple's IOS and Android systems. The company said it had completed a commercial marketing plan and a billing system, and promotion and marketing of the business was under way. Hippi would help Citic expand the retail aspect of international direct dialling traffic, it said. In Hong Kong, use of Citic's short messaging services dropped 20 per cent in the first six months. "Hong Kong is at the forefront of internet technology and many customers have switched [from SMS] to substitutes such as free voice and text messaging services like WhatsApp," chief executive Norman Yuen said. The company said it would strengthen co-operation with telecoms carriers on the mainland in areas of communications services and sharing of customers and channel resources. Chairman Xin Yuejiang said that although there would be challenges in the market in the second half of the year, Citic expected to report healthy growth as the company had controlled its costs efficiently. It "is broadening collaboration with telecoms operators in China and is cultivating markets within China and overseas", Xin said. The company declared an interim dividend of 2.4 HK cents per share for this year, the same as the corresponding period of the previous year. Shares in the company rose 1.3 per cent to HK$1.56, outpacing the benchmark Hang Seng Index on the day as it dropped 1.2 per cent.