Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy Ansuya Harjani
Apple and China Mobile have signed a deal to distribute Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone on the Chinese carrier’s vast network, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
China Mobile confirmed that it has been in talks with the Cupertino-based company, but declined to provide any further information on the deal or the timing of its official announcement.
“China Mobile and Apple have been in talks on cooperation, but there is no information we can disclose at the moment,” Rainie Lei, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for China Mobile told CNBC.
On Wednesday, China said it will award China Mobile, China Unicom Hong Kong and China Telecom licenses to provide the superfast 4G network to customers.
The Wall Street Journal report (subscription required) cited an anonymous source familiar with the Apple and China Mobile deal.
“There are more users just on China Mobile alone than there are Internet users in many other countries,” Keith Fitz-Gerald, chief investment strategist at Money Map Press, told CNBC, highlighting the scale of the potential deal.
“I think this deal could potentially add $1.50, maybe even $2 per share in terms of earnings if the deal goes forward as we understand it,” he added.
China Mobile, the world’s biggest mobile carrier by subscribers with over 700 million customers, is expected to begin selling Apple smartphones later this month.
The Chinese telco is one of the world’s last major carriers that does not offer the iPhone, and its distribution of the device is seen is critical for growing Apple’s foothold in the mainland.
Apple has been struggling to gain market share in China owing to fierce competition from rival Samsung and local manufacturers.
Shares of China Mobile edged up 0.7 percent to 84.75 Hong Kong dollars in Asia trading. They outperformed the broader Hong Kong market, which was down about 0.5 percent.
-CNBC’s Ryan Ruggiero contributed to this report.
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