One of the goals of the massive restructuring of China’s telecom industry last year was to inject a fresh dose of competition into a market mostly dominated by one 500-pound gorilla. The plan may be starting to work, with the news that global telecom behemoth China Mobile posted its first profit decline since 1999. Don’t cry for Mobile – second quarter profits were still US$4.4 billion – but that was down from US$4.47 billion the previous year. Competition from China Telecom and China Unicom forced Mobile to cut prices for services, leading to an 11% decrease in the average monthly phone bill. Meanwhile a pair of major Chinese banks posted somewhat sluggish profit growth in the first half. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China saw first-half profits grow by 2.9% year-on-year to US$9.72 billion, a far cry from the 57% profit growth the lender posted in the first half of 2008. Bank of Communications saw profits rise to US$2.28 billion from US$2.27 billion the previous year. Turning our attention to the macro side of things, preliminary data indicates that China’s current account surplus in the first half fell 32% year-on-year, in yet another sign that the global financial crisis has taken its toll on the Chinese economy.
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