Asian Telecoms Surge on 3G Investment

Man checks mobile phone in Shanghai
Man checks mobile phone in Shanghai

Markets in Asia closed higher Friday. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index climbed 1.6% to 22,209 and in China the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.9% to 3,145. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index added 0.3% to end the day at 11,204.

An announcement that China will invest $58.6 billion in 3G mobile-phone services sent shares in telecom-related stocks surging. According to China Daily, 400,000 base stations will be built, allowing for 3G coverage in every Chinese city that's above prefecture level. You'll also be able to get a signal traveling down the major highways and in most tourist spots.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China will have 150 million 3G users by 2011, and today makers of telecom equipment were on the rise in China: Fiberhome Telecommunication Technologies surged 7.5%, and ZTE Corp added 2.9%. Meanwhile, Jiangsu Yongding, a cable maker, soared 8.4% and Jiangsu Hengtong Photoelectric Stock, which makes optical fiber and cable, climbed 6.5%.

In China, 3G licenses have been granted to the country's three mobile operators that are all listed on the Hang Seng: China Unicom climbed 3.6%, China Telecom rose 2.8% and China Mobile gained 1.6%. For Hong Kong residents, mobile phone services are part of the fabric of society, and customers expect to be able to make a call or connect to the Internet anywhere -- and they can. You can get a perfect connection in the MTR (the city's subway system) whether you're way out in the New Territories or underneath Victoria Harbor. And there's no charge for WiFi in the airport or just about anywhere. Today, Hong Kong-listed shares of telecom equipment maker ZTE rallied 3.7%, and mobile phone maker Foxconn rose 1.1%. Tencent, which provides Internet and mobile services in China, advanced 2.3%.

In Japan, winners included All Nippon Airways, which increased 5.2% on increased earnings estimates, and Seven & I Holdings, which says it expects net profits to more than double by this time next year, according to Bloomberg. The company owns 7-Eleven shops and Denny's Japan, places that cash-strapped folks can still afford. The company also owns the enormous Sogo and Seibu Department stores, major shopping destinations in Hong Kong, frequented by everyone including celebrities and Hong Kong property tycoons.

While major Japanese exporter Canon sank 2.8% and TDK lost 1.9%, Fast Retailing advanced 3% on forecasts that net income is on its way up as demand for its top-selling HeatTech thermal line increased at the end of the year. Hopefully the retailer has some new products and designs up its sleeve, since most devotees of its Uniqlo shops probably already own this line in an array of colors.