I was honoured to be appointed Chairman of China Mobile in March 2019. I feel grateful for the trust of the Board, and the support of our shareholders, customers and the wider community. At the same time, I am well aware of the great responsibility bestowed on me and am keen to live up to the expectations of all our stakeholders.
In the past few years, China Mobile has taken solid steps to implement our “Big Connectivity” strategy and made substantial progress. We boast the largest connection scale in the world and industry-leading profitability. Our development in 5G also places us firmly among the top operators in the world. This has ensured that we have a solid foundation in place to support our development into a global telecommunications operator defined by our cutting edge in digital innovation and helping us achieve a level of competitiveness that places us among the industry leaders from around the world.
The technology revolution and industry transformation continue in waves. Beyond this, information and communications technology (ICT) is also facing an intergenerational transition as attention turns to the potential of 5G. The shift towards innovative and integrated technological application across industries is another factor driving the intelligent evolution of society. The future of 5G is unveiling itself over the horizon, giving us a path and direction of development.
Planning our way ahead, I and my team here at China Mobile will seize every opportunity presented to us and steel ourselves for the inevitable challenges. Taking this course will enable us to sustain the quality development of the Company and be pioneers on the exciting journey to build a smart society.
2018 was a challenging year for telecommunications operators. Competition amongst peers changed in characteristics as products and services have become homogenized while cross-sector challenges have intensified. The value of traditional telecommunications business rapidly diminished, coupled with multiple challenges from a complex and rapidly-changing policy environment. In order to counter market competition, overcome the major obstacles in the ongoing reforms and enhance management, we continued to encourage everyone across the Company to take the “Big Connectivity” strategy even further and implement the integrated development of the “four growth engines”. Our concerted efforts and hard work have seen tangible results as we have established a clear direction of development for ourselves, delivering stable and healthy growth in operating results and continuously enhancing long-term sustainability. The combination of these hardearned achievements is the foundation for our strength in the future.
China Mobile recorded operating revenue of RMB736.8 billion for the 2018 financial year, up by 1.8%1 compared to 2017. Amongst which, telecommunications services revenue amounted to RMB670.9 billion, or growth of 3.7%1 year-on-year. The structure of the “four growth engines” continued to improve, where the respective proportions of revenues from household, corporate and emerging businesses to the Company’s total revenue have increased. Total number of connections reached 1.633 billion, amongst which, 925 million were mobile connections. The number of wireline broadband connections leapt to 157 million with a robust expansion of connection scale. The Company also had an industryleading number of IoT (Internet of Things) smart connections totalling 551 million.
Our main focus in 2018 was on further reducing costs and increasing efficiency, and our efforts yielded favourable results with a reduction in unit cost. Profit attributable to equity shareholders reached RMB117.8 billion, or RMB5.75 per share and an increase of 3.1% year-on-year, aligning our profitability over the years with the top operators internationally.
The Board recommends a final dividend payment of HK$1.391 per share for the year ended 31 December 2018. Together with the interim dividend payment of HK$1.826 per share, the total dividend payment for the 2018 financial year increased by 0.4% year-on year and amounted to HK$3.217 per share. Full-year dividend payout ratio increased to 49%.
Taking into consideration the Company’s financial position, its ability to generate cash flow and its future development needs, the Company will maintain a stable dividend payout ratio in 2019 and strive to create greater value for shareholders.
The Board believes that our industry-leading profitability and ability to generate healthy cash flow will provide sufficient support for the Company’s future development and create favourable returns for our shareholders.
|1||The revenue growth rates are derived on a comparable basis after applying the new revenue standard (IFRS/HKFRS 15) to the revenue figures of last year pursuant to a static calculation.|
We have furthered the integrated development of the “four growth engines” by maintaining our leadership in the personal mobile market while expanding our household, corporate and emerging businesses. This has resulted in an effective enhancement to our business structure and a shift of revenue growth streams.
Faced with ever-escalating peer competition in the personal mobile market, we have moved swiftly to adjust our business strategy and seized the initiative to optimize our product portfolio. We have launched precision marketing initiatives and streamlined our service and management mechanisms, which resulted in enhanced customer satisfaction and business momentum. We maintained our market leadership with the market shares in terms of 4G customer net addition and data traffic increasing to about 50% in the fourth quarter of 2018. The total number of 4G customers reached 713 million in 2018, amongst whom 380 million were VoLTE (Voice over LTE) customers. Total handset data traffic increased by 182.1% year-onyear and in December 2018 4G DOU (average handset data traffic per user per month) stood at 6.6 GB. Mobile ARPU (average revenue per user per month) reached an industry-leading level of RMB53.1.
We put a special focus on enhancing quality, speed and value for customers and furthering the development of our digital household business as we strive to cement ourselves as the recognized premium broadband provider. Our efforts have fuelled strong growth momentum in the household market. With a net increase of 37.42 million, the number of household broadband customers totalled 147 million and accounted for a market share of 41.5%. The number of customers for our digital set-top box “Mobaihe” reached 96.81 million, or a penetration rate of 65.9% in the household market. Household broadband blended ARPU reached RMB34.4, up by 3.2% year-on-year.
The Company focused on the key sectors we had identified to develop our corporate business at the same time as being mindful of the massive addressable market from informatization. This strategy has greatly strengthened our competitiveness in the market. The number of corporate customers increased to 7.18 million, or year-on-year growth of 19.2%, bringing a 2.2 percentage point increase to our revenue market share in corporate telecommunications and informatization services, which stood at 38.5%. In order to grow our business by extending into verticals, we stepped up our business development efforts across major markets, broadening our one-stop service offering. In 2018, we had 11 industry applications that generated individual annual revenue of more than RMB100 million.
Our innovative operating model has assisted us to capitalize on emerging business opportunities by focusing on key products and achieving growth through high scalability. We have recorded a net addition of 322 million in IoT smart connections, boosting the total number of connections to 551 million. In some provinces and cities across China, the number of machine-tomachine connections has exceeded that of human-tohuman connections. Viewership of more than 4.3 billion was recorded for matches broadcasted on “MIGU Video” during the FIFA World Cup. Revenue of “MIGU Reading” exceeded RMB2.3 billion while the transaction value of our mobile payment business “and-Wallet” exceeded RMB2.5 trillion.
The long-term development of the Company depends on our ability to draw on our established core strengths. Therefore, we placed great importance on upgrading our network infrastructure, enhancing innovative technology and boosting our research and development capability. The furtherance of open collaboration and internal reforms is also key to our sustainable growth.
Our network coverage and quality continued to improve, with the number of 4G base stations increasing to 2.41 million. To effectively respond to the fast-growing demands for 4G handset data traffic, we have built a network covering more than 97.8% of administrative villages in China. Continuous coverage of our NB-IoT (Narrow band-Internet of Things) network has been extended to reach areas at township level and above across China. All our household broadband services are equipped with access capability of 100Mbps or above. We have also enhanced customer perception by the more efficient deployment of CDN (Content Delivery Network) edge nodes. Buoyed by our ongoing work to lay international submarine cables, cross-border terrestrial cables and PoPs (Points of Presence), we managed to achieve significant enhancements to our network capabilities, which is central to the progressive formulation of our international network comprising Information Highway (connectivity resources), Information Station (PoPs) and Information Island (data centres).
Research on key technologies and technology standards has yielded encouraging developments. We led the formulation of 5G architecture standards and contributed a large number of proposals on R15 standard setting, which in this aspect put us ahead of other global telecommunications operators. The Company also served important roles in a number of international organizations for standard formulation, which have increased our influence in international information and communications discourse. We have steadily pushed ahead on network evolution and upgrade, and are proactively conducting tests on the 5G network and trials on 5G business applications. We accelerated the development of NFV (Network Function Virtualization) and SDN (Software Defined Networking) and put our virtualized NB-IoT core network into commercial use. We have actively built out the infrastructure for “5G+ edge computing” smart connection and continued to drive the application of our new technologies such as cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence on a large scale.
We continued to promote open collaboration with other industry participants. Initiatives have included furthering the roll-out of the “1-3-9 Collaborative Plan” to drive the development of one new network, three industry alliances and nine capability applications. The capability sharing platform, which was part of this collaboration initiative, was recognized as a national model of shared economy platform in China. The capability applications on the platform were deployed more than 800 billion times cumulatively while more than 300,000 other applications were incubated on it. In order to achieve synergy across industries, we have made equity investments to enable collaborative development. We have initiated the 5G Joint Innovation Industry Fund to facilitate end-to- end 5G industry adoption. We have made favorable progress in a number of strategic co-operations with local governments and large corporations to develop innovative 5G applications. This has included “5G+ High Definition Videos”, and applications for key verticals such as transportation and healthcare.
Further reforms have also produced positive results such as centralized IT systems. We have taken steps to consolidate our IT capabilities and seen a clear improvement in the response rate for IT support across the network. We have established three industrial research institutes in Shanghai, Xiong’an New Area in Hebei Province and Chengdu in Sichuan Province to promote professional operations in businesses such as e-commerce and location services, further streamlining the organizational structure relating to our digital services. We have established centralized operation centres, developed a multi-layer online and offline marketing system, and launched an all-round innovative shared service model, all of which have enhanced our management structure and operating efficiency. Reforms have also been extended to and sped up in our subsidiaries, three of which – MIGU Co., Ltd., China Mobile Group Device Co., Ltd. and China Mobile Online Services Co., Ltd. – were selected by China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission following its initiative of implementing state-owned enterprise reforms in certain selected subsidiaries of central enterprises and local state-owned backbone enterprises (the “Double-hundred Action”).
We always uphold the principles of integrity, transparency, openness and efficiency and fully complied with all applicable listing rules to ensure good corporate governance.
We have been enhancing the composition of our Board membership, ensuring diversity and fully leveraging the experience and expertise of our independent non-executive directors, so as to introduce ongoing improvements to our governance structure and decision-making mechanisms.
Throughout the Company there is a commitment to enhancing compliance management and ensuring best practices in our daily operations through initiatives such as the “Safeguarding Compliance” programme. We further reinforced the legal accountability of the first responsible persons as we improve our regulatory system to ensure that the Company complies with the law.
We are dedicated to enhancing our risk and internal control systems, increasing the level of competence in risk detection and management. Further strengthening the supervision over key issues and critical areas, such as procurement and capital deployment, allows us to more effectively mitigate business risks and close any gaps in our business management processes as we strive for sustainable and quality operations.
During 2018 the Company made a substantial effort to fulfil our social responsibility, making use of our expertise to satisfy more people’s needs as they pursue a better life.
To play our part in narrowing the digital divide and alleviating poverty, we continuously improved mobile telecommunications and broadband networks in villages and remote areas of China. As of the end of 2018, we have covered a total of 546,000 administrative villages with 4G services and 417,000 administrative villages with wireline broadband services. At the same time, we have proactively launched tariff concession plans in targeted poverty-alleviation efforts for people in need. Our proprietary Targeted Poverty Alleviation System (TPAS) won the top prize under the E-government action line at the 2018 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). As of the end of 2018, the system has been adopted by 71 cities and counties in 14 provinces across China, covering 8.11 million disadvantaged individuals.
The Company has successfully completed 4,899 emergency communications missions in 2018, participating in coordinated disaster and emergency rescue efforts and ensuring uninterrupted communications during major incidents. We have taken the initiative to combat evolving telecommunications frauds and cybercrime in order to create a healthy and safe industry environment. To protect our customers’ privacy, we launched various services such as “and- Multiples” (a service feature allowing an individual customer to have multiple numbers on one SIM card) and “Intermediate Number” (a service feature “encrypting” the numbers of two parties during business transactions).
In terms of energy saving and emissions reduction, we continued to implement the “Green Action Plan” to reduce our carbon footprint. During the year, the overall energy consumption per unit of information flow further reduced by 57% compared to that of 2017. We advocated environmental protection among our suppliers, with the rate of eco-friendly packaging usage on new devices extending to 67%. China Mobile is the only company from Mainland China to be included in the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) managed global Climate A List for three consecutive years.
Across the Company charitable projects were undertaken to help people in need. The “Blue Dream” education project has provided professional training for 115,782 primary and secondary school principals cumulatively in rural villages across Central and Western China. The “Heart Caring” campaign, since its inception, has sponsored the surgery of 5,358 impoverished children with congenital heart disease. This campaign won the “Outstanding Philanthropy Programme” award at the 10th China Philanthropy Awards. The “MIGU Run” philanthropy platform established by China Mobile’s innovative business unit has attracted participation from 4.5 million people to date.
Our achievements have received wide recognition. To name a few, we were a Platinum Award winner at The Asset Corporate Awards 2018 and received Asia’s Icon on Corporate Governance award and Asia’s Best Investor Relations Company award from Corporate Governance Asia. We were top of the list of CSR Development Index – Chinese Enterprises in Ten Years (2009-2018) in the Research Report on Corporate Social Responsibility released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s maintained our corporate credit ratings at the same level as China’s sovereign ratings in 2018.
In 2018, in response to the government’s “speed upgrade and tariff reduction” requirements, we have completely cancelled domestic data “roaming” tariffs while lowering the tariffs for handset data, household broadband and dedicated corporate Internet access. This has brought benefit to a cumulative total of 1.93 billion customer engagements and 2.888 million small and medium-sized enterprises. As a result of the wider application of new technologies, we have managed to continuously reduce network costs which, in turn, enabled us to provide quality and value-for-money information services to more customers. We were able to effectively balance the requirements of “reducing tariffs” by increasing usage volume and maintaining value with the adoption of innovative operating models as well as enriching our product portfolio to scale up the level of sales despite a smaller profit margin.
To promote the development of “Internet+” and “Digital China”, the Chinese government has decided to continue to impose the “speed upgrade and tariff reduction” requirements in 2019. This year will also see the pilot launch of gigabyte broadband connections in urban areas and reforms undertaken to upgrade long-distance education and healthcare networks. The authorities will also drive an upgrade in capacity for mobile network base stations. Broadband tariffs for small and medium enterprises will further reduce by 15% on average while tariffs for handset data will similarly see average reductions of more than 20%. Mobile Number Portability will also be implemented across the country. China Mobile will continue to implement the “speed upgrade and tariff reduction” regulatory requirements, and at the same time, leverage our established advantage in network quality. We will also strive to integrate further our businesses and promote product innovation. These efforts will allow us to maintain the growth momentum particularly through an acceleration in the Company’s pace of digital transformation.
The macro-economic environment and the industry landscape are currently undergoing “gear-changes” on four fronts. Overall, the economy is shifting from fastpaced expansion to high quality growth. Information and communications technology (ICT) has rapidly developed from being purely the enabling infrastructure to become a core force leading the wider economic growth. The fundamental telecommunications business is also shifting its dynamics from economies of scale to value creation by maximizing the connections and capabilities already in place. Finally, competition in the information and communications market has been changing fast. The winning factors now lie not only in the business fundamentals but also in the suite of capabilities. Against this backdrop, the Company will be presented with opportunities as well as facing challenges.
As development accelerates further, 5G will become the key infrastructure to promote economic and social digitalization. The integration and innovation in artificial intelligence and big data will continue, driving the rapid evolution of connectivity, perception and intelligent technology, which will become an omnipresent reality. The Internet will expand from a technology that focuses on individual consumption to the Internet of Industries with industrial uses at the forefront. All these factors will present us with unique opportunities at this point in time to boost connectivity scale, strengthen connectivity application and optimizse connectivity service.
The opposing force to this dynamic arises as the Company faces serious challenges related to technology upgrade and market competition. The revolutionary 5G network architecture will increase the complexity of both operations and management. Inevitably there will be some weaker parts in the industry chain and vertical application during the early stages at the very least. Business and operating models will require change. The homogenized offerings amongst competing telecommunications operators will continue to give rise to new dynamics and areas of competition. Facing this paradigm, ICT industry players equipped with broadbased technology are striving to dominate key nodes of the industrial value chain, forming a multi-faceted business landscape with players from both within the industry and cross-sector vying competitively.
The Company will seek to anticipate the new trends in the macro-environment and industry development, making pre-emptive moves to seize the new opportunities arising with the transition between economic growth drivers. We will also plan and prepare to tackle future difficulties and challenges.
As we move into the new year, we will continue to take thoughtful actions and practical steps, and have every confidence in maintaining our strategic focus on accelerating innovation and effective operations. These efforts, together with our adherence to openness and collaboration, will lead to new competitive strengths that support our high-quality development.
First, we will further integrated development to reinforce our industry leadership. Responding to the changes in customers’ consumption behaviours and aspirations that lead to more demand, we will focus on the harmonized and balanced development of the “four growth engines”, in parallel with striving to increase revenue. We will leverage the synergy brought about by the interactions amongst our personal mobile, household, corporate and emerging businesses to reinforce customer touch points and speed up the integration of users, businesses and services. The keen focus on industry collaboration will not only lead to the creation of an integrated ecosystem with key partners from different areas such as digital content, vertical industry chains and international business, but also enable us to fully leverage the complementary strengths amongst these partners.
Secondly, we will work to reduce costs, increase efficiency and scale up efforts to exercise delicate management. Following a policy of prudent cost control and adopting flexibility in a suite of asset management tools including disposal, restructuring and revitalization of resources, we will improve our asset operation quality and optimize resource efficiency. It will be possible to significantly reduce operational and maintenance costs by fully leveraging smart technology. We will speed up the development of digital channels and shut down underperforming and ineffective physical retail outlets. We will increase internal synergies throughout the Company to enhance our centralized operational capability and accelerate our response speed. We will strengthen our capabilities in risk prevention, putting in place sound procedures and mechanisms that cultivate a culture of governance clearly in line with the rule of law.
Thirdly, we will enhance our customer service in order to obtain an industry-leading customer satisfaction rate. We will continue to strengthen customers’ perception of our 4G network, enhance our household broadband and dedicated corporate lines, and upgrade product quality to serve the changing needs of customers. We aim to build an operations and development system driven by the “four growth engines”, enhancing both the service levels to address our customers’ demands and the areas that need more attention. We will accelerate the rebranding of our “GoTone” product, making full use of its brand advantages to strengthen customer retention and maintain customer value.
Fourthly, our innovation-led strategy will drive business transformation in a systematic way. We will continue to conduct tests on the 5G network and perform trials on business applications to ensure the pre-commercial launch of 5G services this year. We aim to provide direction and leadership for 5G development, exploring suitable 5G products and business models with industry partners. To build a strong foundation for the ongoing transformation towards an intelligent network, we will speed up the pace of network upgrades and strengthen our core capabilities. The Company will expand into new retail business and strive for the large-scale development of our own branded intelligent hardware. We will build up our capabilities in key business areas and develop an open and shared innovative ecosystem. In order to realize a win-win situation, we will continue to enhance the collaborative opening-up efforts, reinforcing industrial cooperation, investment planning and international expansion.
Fifthly, deep reforms will infuse vitality into our organization and systems. The IT reform will help us centralize and optimize our overall IT capability. With regard to our digital business, we will develop solutions for verticals and build our professional operational ability in e-commerce. We will actively explore new operating models to further optimize and find innovative approaches to areas such as network maintenance and market operation. We were honoured to be selected as a showcase in developing China’s world-class corporations, and will take this opportunity to increase engagement and infuse new energy into our organization by enhancing performance-related incentive and appraisal mechanisms. The Company is committed to implementing reforms in our subsidiaries and turning them into high-potential enterprises, as part of the “Double-hundred Action”.
2019 marks the starting point of our march into an information society powered by 5G. It is also a banner year in which we strive to realize the “Big Connectivity” strategic goal. The Company is determined to live up to the tremendous trust bestowed upon us by investors and shareholders by achieving ever-stronger operating results. We will strive to achieve more than 2.0 billion connections, favourable growth in telecommunications services revenue and, on a comparable basis2, stable-to-rising growth in profit in 2019. These targets are based on the assumption that there will be no unexpected changes to the regulatory environment in 2019.
|2||“Profit on a comparable basis” : refers to net profit after excluding the impact of the one-off gain resulting from the public listing of China Tower Corporation Limited and the new accounting standard on leasing.|
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Shang Bing, who has recently retired from the role of Chairman. During his service, Mr. Shang Bing made tremendous contribution in his leadership of the Company and achieved remarkable progress, leading the Company to achieve robust growth in the 4G era while laying a solid foundation for the Company’s 5G development. On behalf of the Board, I thank Mr. Shang Bing for his unequalled legacy to China Mobile.
We would not have achieved what we have without the hard work and contribution of all our staff, the longstanding support of our customers and shareholders, partnership from all industry participants, the trust from the regulatory authorities, and the confidence bestowed upon us by members of the community. On behalf of the Board, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of them.
We will continue to work towards our goal of becoming the “world’s leading operator in digital innovation”, striving to build a first-tier global enterprise with international competitiveness and continuing to create greater value and returns for our shareholders, customers, staff and the wider community.
Hong Kong, 21 March 2019