SHANGHAI: China will swap the heads of the country’s top three telecom companies in a high stakes round of musical chairs as speculation mounts over a possible merger of the trio.
The companies—China Unicom, China Telecom and China Mobile—are all state-owned and China’s Communist Party controls the management of the country’s major government-run enterprises with power to shuffle their chiefs at will.
The country’s second-largest operator China Unicom will be replaced with the head of China Telecom, according to separate company statements posted on their websites, intensifying the merger speculation, which has been spreading as the government tries to reform the tightly controlled industry.
“A change of top management does signal Chinese government actions and progress in pushing reforms,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michelle Ma told Bloomberg News. “Investors are hoping the reforms could revitalize growth and improve efficiency in the telecom sector.”
Chang Xiaobing, former chairman and party chief of China Unicom, will become chairman and party chief in China Telecom.
While Wang Xiaochu, former chairman and party chief of China Telecom, will replace Chang to become chairman and party chief for China Unicom.
The world’s biggest mobile operator China Mobile said in another statement that its chairman and party chief Xi Guohua would step down and Shang Bing, the vice minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, would take over Xi’s position.The official Xinhua news agency reported in April that China was considering merging scores of its biggest state-owned companies to create around 40 national champions from the existing 111.
Despite the announcements, China Telecom closed 6.45 percent lower in Hong Kong as the market stumbled.
China Unicom’s stocks plunged 9.93 percent in Shanghai and fell 2.03 percent in Hong Kong at close, while China Mobile closed down 7.93 percent in Hong Kong.