China Mobile is big and getting bigger. CCID Consulting has analysed the 2007 financial results of the Big Four carriers in China and the results confirm China Mobile's sizzling pace of growth. The world's largest mobile phone company, surged past the rest of the Big Four to grow revenues more than 21% to 295bn yuan and subscriber numbers 22% to 301m.

4carriers.jpgIts revenue growth rate is almost three times the 7.7% growth clocked up by its next-biggest rival, China Telecom.

China Unicom came third with a 5.7% growth rate while China Netcom was the odd man out, reporting a slight decline in revenues.

Both China Mobile and China Unicom boasted a big increase in net profits in 2006.

China Mobile reported the biggest profit in absolute terms while China Unicom had the highest growth rate. China Telecom and China Netcom saw some decrease in net profits.

In a country of superlatives, China Mobile's performance risks getting taken for granted. Nevertheless, in the first three months of 2007, it has added another 15m subscribers, which is the equivalent of adding the installed base of a country like Greece — every three months.

China Mobile is not just a world leader in subscribers. According to brand database Brandz, which has just published its latest data (pdf), China Mobile is also the world's leading mobile communications brand. While Vodafone's brand is worth $21bn, the China Mobile brand is worth $41bn, according to Brandz. What's more, China Mobile outperforms Vodafone on two other brand measures: brand momentum and brand contribution.

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Attempting to quantify a brand's value is, at best, a suspect science, so EngagingChina was quite sceptical about China Mobile's lead when it was revealed in the 2006 version of the Brandz database.

Nevertheless, we recently had the chance to discuss the Brandz study with its manager David Muir who is CEO of The Channel, the research arm of advertising giant WPP.

Muir told EngagingChina that he too was initially sceptical about China Mobile's taking pole position in the brand equity table. However, he has had talks with Vodafone executives who begrudgingly admit that the Chinese rival has the stronger brand. Indeed, it has pulled further ahead of Vodafone according to Brandz' latest data.

Of course, China Mobile is a brand that was conceived purely for domestic consumption, so a head-to-head comparison with a global brand like Vodafone is perhaps unfair.

Nevertheless, Muir says that China Mobile is now looking to expand internationally — it recently paid $284m for a majority stake in Pakistan's Paktel — and so the real contest of brand value is still to come.


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