China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile operator by subscribers, said Thursday that 2013 net profit fell almost six percent, its first decline for more than a decade.
Net profit was 121.7 billion yuan ($19.54 billion), down 5.9 percent compared to 2012 and the first full-year fall since 1999, it said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange where it is listed.
The group described 2013 as a "crucial year of transformation", which included the issuance of 4G network licences and a more saturated traditional communications market with fiercer competition.
China Mobile was granted the licence to operate the faster next-generation 4G data network in China in December last year, and had planned to invest almost $7 billion in building the network.
The firm, which started selling Apple iPhones for the first time in January this year, has said it targets 50 million 4G users in 2014.
It had enhanced its networking capabilities in the face of "fiercer" competition from its competitors China Unicom and China Telecom, the statement said.
Revenue rose by 8.3 percent year-on-year to 630.18 billion yuan and it also saw its total customers increase by eight percent to 767 million.
China Mobile's 3G services market share increased "steadily" with a net growth of 104 million customers. Revenue from wireless data traffic contributed 18.3 percent of its telecommunications services revenue, the statement said.
However, its results fell short of the full-year net profit increases seen by its competitors China Unicom and China Telecom.
-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --