China Reform Holdings Said to Seek Over $1.6 Billion Tower Stake

  • Proceeds to fund buildout of electric-vehicle charging network
  • Deal agreement could be signed as soon as this month

China Reform Holdings Corp., an investment firm charged with revamping state-owned enterprises, plans to buy a stake in China Tower Corp. valued at more than 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), people with knowledge of the matter said. 

The Beijing-based company aims to buy about 6 percent of China Tower, which is being set up to own the wireless infrastructure of the nation’s major mobile carriers, according to the people. A deal could be signed as soon as this month, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. 

China Reform’s investment would help China Tower pay for construction of a network of electric-car charging stations, the people said. The government wants to boost availability of the facilities, which are key to the adoption of such vehicles, and assigned state-owned China Tower to build out the network because it already has a nationwide footprint with its telecommunications assets, they said.

The administration of President Xi Jinping is seeking to overhaul China’s bloated $16 trillion state sector as the world’s second-largest economy heads for its slowest growth in a quarter century. China Mobile Ltd. and its two smaller rivals announced plans last year to create China Tower by pooling their wireless tower assets and reduce investment duplication as the country rolls out faster networks.

Outside Investors

A final agreement between government-run China Reform and China Tower hasn’t yet been completed, and details could change or the deal could be delayed.

Wireless market leader China Mobile, China Telecom Corp. and China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. aim to inject a combined 300 billion yuan of assets into the tower venture this year, people with knowledge of the matter said in July. China Tower then plans to sell a stake to outside investors ahead of an initial public offering slated for 2017, the people said at the time.

China Reform was set up in 2010 by China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, an arm of the cabinet that controls the biggest government enterprises. It agreed last year to help restructure the coal-to-chemical business of Chinese electricity producer Datang International Power Generation Co. 

The company has also taken over some smaller state enterprises, including China Printing (Group) Corp., as the country seeks to reduce the number of companies directly overseen by SASAC.

A woman who answered the phone at China Reform’s Beijing office said the company doesn’t have a media-relations department and said she’s unable to transfer calls to executives or provide further contact details. An e-mail sent to China Reform wasn’t immediately answered, while SASAC didn’t immediately reply to faxed questions. 

China Tower’s website doesn’t provide contact information for its headquarters, and calls and e-mails to several of its provincial branches went unanswered. Representatives for China Mobile and China Telecom declined to comment, while a spokeswoman for China Unicom said she couldn’t immediately comment.

— With assistance by Steven Yang

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