SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) — KT Corp., a major South Korean telecom operator, said Tuesday it shifted to a net profit during the final quarter of last year on the back of growing 5G users.

Net income reached 39.1 billion won (US$35 million) in the October-December period on a consolidated basis, compared with a loss of 10.2 billion won the previous year.

Operating income rose 6.4 percent on-year to 166.8 billion won, while sales stood at 6.2 trillion won, up 0.2 percent over the cited period.

This file photo, taken July 5, 2020, shows KT Corp.’s office in central Seoul. (Yonhap)

KT said an increase in its 5G users helped its bottom line.

The company had 3.6 million users on its latest generation network as of the end of last year, up more than 800,000 from three months earlier, according to government data.

For the whole of last year, KT’s net income stood at 703.4 billion won, up 5.6 percent from the previous year, while operating income rose 2.1 percent to 1.18 trillion won. Annual sales declined 1.7 percent to 23.9 trillion won over the cited period.

KT said the growth in 5G users led its annual wireless service sales to rise 1.6 percent to 6.5 trillion won.

It expects 5G users to account for 45 percent of its total handset subscribers this year, compared with 25 percent last year.

The mobile carrier added that it saw accelerated growth in artificial intelligence (AI) and digital services geared toward corporate clients, with annual sales from the business rising 11.8 percent to 550.7 billion won.

The company has been pushing to nurture the business division, which includes its internet data center, cloud and AI call center services, aiming to shift to become a digital services company from its established telecommunications focus.

The company’s major subsidiaries, however, struggled last year due to the pandemic-driven slump, with credit card unit BC Card Co.’s annual sales dropping 4.2 percent on-year to 3.38 trillion won, and real estate subsidiary KT estate Ltd.’s sales skidding 24.9 percent to 364.4 billion won over the same period.

This undated image, provided by KT Corp., shows its logo. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)