Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile phone operator by subscribers, on Thursday posted a 5 percent rise in annual net profit, fueled by growth in 4G subscribers.

 

China's top telecommunications operator's net profit for 2017 stood at 114.4 billion yuan ($18 billion), up from 108.8 billion yuan a year earlier, it said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

 

Its 4G mobile network subscribers rose to 650 million in 2017 after the addition of 114 million customers, while its number of 4G base stations climbed to 1.87 million, covering 99 percent of China's population.

 

The company said it aims to dedicate more resources to research and development and expects 5G technology to drive growth.

 

"We are expecting 5G technology development to drive new business models across the spectrum," it said in a statement.

 

China Mobile announced a final dividend of HK$1.582 per share for the year ended December 2017.

Along with an interim dividend of HK$1.623 per share and a special dividend of HK$3.200 per share to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Hong Kong listing, the total dividend payment for 2017 was HK$6.405 per share.

Operating revenue for 2017 rose 4.5 percent from a year earlier to 740.5 billion yuan.

China Mobile is also making big investments into burgeoning so-called Internet of Things, in line with the Chinese government's strategy to see more devices and people become interconnected.

(Reporting By Anne Marie Roantree and Sijia Jiang; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)