SHANGHAI Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Tim Cook met with China Mobile's Chairman Xi Guohua on Thursday to discuss "matters of cooperation," a China Mobile spokesman said, raising hopes that a deal between the two tech giants may move forward.
"In the morning, Apple's CEO Tim Cook visited China Mobile's headquarters. China Mobile's Chairman Xi Guohua and Tim Cook discussed matters of cooperation," said Li Jun, a China Mobile spokesman, in an emailed statement.
No further details will be given due to a confidentiality agreement signed, the statement said.
Apple, which has deals with China Unicom and China Telecom to sell its iPhones in China, has yet to strike a deal with China Mobile, the world's largest mobile carrier by subscribers.
Inking a deal with China Mobile will give Apple access to a massive subscriber base and help arrest the Cupertino firm's sliding market share in the world's biggest smartphone market.
In an interview with local media on Thursday, Cook told reporters that he is confident that China will become Apple's largest market in the near future.
"Currently, Apple has 11 stores in the Greater China region, as well as many resellers. We will continue to expand in China and the number of retail stores we'll have will exceed 25," Cook was quoted as saying by news portal Sina Technology News.
Cook is in Beijing meeting with government officials and partners. On Tuesday, Cook met with China's minister for industry and information technology and on Wednesday met with high level executives from China Unicom.
The lack of a deal with China Mobile has hurt Apple's fortunes lately, as Chinese users switch to other smartphone brands from Samsung Electronics and Lenovo Group.
Talks between Apple and China Mobile have been going on for years and are stuck on revenue sharing terms, analysts said, so it is tough to say if this meeting would break new ground.
China Mobile uses a different 3G network from the rest of the world and some experts say Apple might wait for the new network to be commercially viable before launching the iPhone with the carrier.
(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Kazunori Takada and Jeremy Laurence)