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Thursday, April 8, 1999 Published at 06:15 GMT 07:15 UK

Business: The Company File

BT expands into China

China still remains closed to most foreign telecoms companies

British Telecom has made a move into the Chinese market with the purchase of a 20% stake in Hong Kong's third largest mobile phone operator.

The £240m move on SmarTone brings BT's total investment in the Asia-Pacific region in the past six months to more than £750m.

BT now has more than a dozen Asia-Pacific alliances, partnerships and joint ventures.

Buying local, going global

The company's strategy is to buy up stakes in locally owned and run telecoms firms that are connected to the wider world by BT's global networking capability.

President and chief executive of BT Worldwide, Alfred Mockett, said the aim was to influence the use of technologies in other parts of the world so that as many operations as possible used the same transmission techniques.

BT's Asia division will be the second biggest shareholder in SmarTone which has just under 500,000 users. The largest shareholder is a Hong Kong property developer Hung Kai Properties, with what will be a 26.34% stake.

BT is paying HK$25 a share, an 11% premium on SmarTone's closing price on 1 April.

The Chinese market is still closed to foreign operators although the American company AT&T is understood to be involved in laying a fixed line service in the country.

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