China Telecom Chairman Resigns After Being Targeted in Probe

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UNICOM 4Q EARNS

Chang Xiaobing.

Photographer: PAUL HILTON/BLOOMBERG NEWS
  • COO Yang to take on Chang's duties until replacement is found
  • Chang under investigation for `severe disciplinary violations'

China Telecom Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chang Xiaobing resigned after he became the latest high-ranking executive to be targeted by anti-graft investigators.

Effective Dec. 30, President and Chief Operating Officer Yang Jie will take on Chang’s duties until an appointment is made by the board of directors, China’s third-largest mobile-phone carrier said in a statement on Wednesday in Hong Kong.

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on Sunday that Chang, who formerly headed China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd., was being probed for severe disciplinary violations -- language often used to refer to corruption investigations. Under President Xi Jinping, anti-graft probes have snared more than 100,000 officials and spanned areas such as the military, oil industry and the finance sector.

The replacement also comes at a time the industry is facing a revamp. In October, the nation’s three major wireless carriers -- including industry leader China Mobile Ltd. -- agreed to transfer about $35 billion of their network assets into a newly formed company called China Tower Corp. in exchange for stakes in the infrastructure firm.

China Telecom shares fell 1.1 percent to close at HK$3.65 before the resignation was announced. The stock has fallen 20 percent this year, underperforming the Hang Seng Index’s 7.3 percent decline.

An engineer who graduated from the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Yang served as deputy director general at Shanxi Posts and Telecommunications Administration, general manager at Shanxi Telecommunications Corp., vice president at China Telecom Beijing Research Institute and general manager of the business department at Northern Telecom of China Telecommunications Corp.

Chang, 58, moved across from Unicom earlier this year as part of a leadership reshuffle in the telecommunications industry, which like many state-controlled sectors, is undergoing an overhaul to make companies more efficient.

He’s the highest-ranking telecommunications official embroiled in a serious probe since former China Mobile Vice Chairman Zhang Chunjiang, whom Xinhua reported in 2011 as drawing a suspended death sentence for taking bribes.

Prior to joining Unicom, Chang served in various telecom-related government roles in China. He was appointed Unicom chairman in late 2004 and had served on the board of of Telefonica SA.

— With assistance by Daniela Wei

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