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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

China’s telco giant enters Middle East with eye on Chinese customers

Hong Kong's China Mobile International has expanded its footprint to 20 countries

Li Feng, chairman and chief executive of China Mobile International, is looking to expand in the Middle East. Antonie Robertson/The National 
Li Feng, chairman and chief executive of China Mobile International, is looking to expand in the Middle East. Antonie Robertson/The National 

China Mobile International wants to work in close co-ordination with UAE telcos du and Etisalat as it enters the Middle East market with its first regional office in Dubai.

“Du and Etisalat are offering a full range of services to customers … working closely with them, we would be a bridge between UAE telcos and enterprises, especially of Chinese origin,” said Li Feng, chairman and chief executive of CMI, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Mobile, the world’s largest telecom operator by number of subscribers.

He said that the company will look to improve communication and understanding between local operators and Chinese customers. “Chinese customers can buy more services if there is better understanding,” Mr Li said.

China is the largest trading partner of the Emirates, while the UAE is the second-largest trading partner and the largest export market for China in West Asia and North Africa. In 2017, bilateral trade volume reached $41 billion (Dh150.5bn), according to Ni Jian, China’s ambassador to the UAE.

“Entry of CMI in the Middle East will have a far-reaching impact on the promotion of information and communications industries in the region,” said Mr Ni, who also sees this move as a push towards enhancing bilateral trade.

Arrival of a Chinese telco major in the region could also connect large numbers of Chinese tourists visiting the Middle East to CMI services in the future.

In 2017, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the UAE exceeded a million for the first time, and nearly 3.5 million used the UAE as a transit point.

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CMI’s parent company had a 4.5 per cent jump in revenues amounting to 740.5 billion Chinese yuan (Dh392.4bn), according to Statista.

“In the Middle East, we have three main objectives: to work more closely along with regional carriers, to provide value-added services and to speed up the technology development in this region,” said Mr Li.

To provide better services to meet the growing demand in the global telecoms market, China Mobile established CMI in 2010, mainly responsible for the operation of international business.

Based in Hong Kong, CMI provides a range of services including Internet of Things, voice, data, roaming and has expanded its footprint in 20 countries.

“We are certain to see Chinese companies and trade influencing the ICT industry considerably over the coming years … and we consider CMI’s entry as a significant step towards that direction,” said Ammar Malik, managing director of Dubai Internet City.