Hutchison sees end to phone drought

Hutchison Whampoa is hoping for a change in fortunes, with talk of a handset surplus, a new Asian launch and possible floatation

Hutchison Whampoa is gearing up to take the 3G market by force, with a glut of handsets, a new Asian launch and possible flotation all being talked up as a change in fortunes for the beleaguered 3G phone company.

The handset drought that cost the company dear looks to be nearing its end, with a shipment of 1.5 million 3G phones to be delivered in time for the New Year.

News that the NEC and Motorola mobiles are finally hitting the shelves -- the deliveries should be completed by March -- will be music to the company's ears, but consumers won't be able to get the phones in time for Christmas, dealing a €2bn (£1.41bn) blow to revenues.

User targets in both 3's Italian and UK markets have been missed but the mobile operator is looking to patch up the difference with Hong Kong users. It launched its 3G offering in the territory yesterday, and says it will be rolled out by January next year.

The firm now operates in the UK, Italy, Austria, Sweden and Australia. It has signed up around two-thirds of a million users, despite promising a million each in the UK and Italy. Hong Kong users won't enjoy the same discounts as their European counterparts, however, in order to fill the hole in Hutch's finances.

Still, there are signs of life at the 3G operator. It announced that it had brought its UK user total up to 210,000, despite the phone shortage.