SK Telecom (SK), South Korea's biggest mobile carrier, said March 5 that it has acquired a 42.2% stake in Chinese record label Beijing Taihe Rye Music (TR Music) as part of its plans to expand across Asia.

SK says it will jointly operate the label with TR Music parent company Tahie Media, which following the deal also has a 42.2% stake in TR Music.

Seoul-based SK would not confirm the sale price, but sources at the telecom say the deal is worth more than $10 million.

In a statement, SK said TR Music, which was founded in 1996 and now ranks as one of China's biggest domestic labels, will focus on pioneering new business areas, developing business models for digital content and fostering new talent.

"The China market features unlimited growth potential in both the music and convergence businesses," said Seok Hwan Lee, president of SK Telecom China Holding Co., the Beijing-based SK subsidiary that set up the deal.

"Through TR Music, we will enhance our core competitiveness in record production and expand business models in the digital music industry to become a leading music label in Asia," Lee said in a statement.

TR Music's biggest act is female vocalist Li Yuchun (also known as Chris Lee), winner of the 2005 edition of the massively popular "Super Girl" idol-search competition. Her 2006 debut album, "The Queen and the Dreams," is said to have sold more than 500,000 copies.

With the domestic mobile market at saturation point, South Korean telecoms have moved aggressively into the content field in the past two years.

SK already owns leading domestic label JYP Entertainment, distributor Seoul Records and major movie producer and talent management company iHQ. All are based in Seoul.

At a Beijing press conference announcing the deal, Jung Hoon-tack and Hong Seung-hoon, the CEOs of iHQ and JYP, respectively, signed an MoU with TR Music in which they said they will work to foster collaboration between Chinese and other Asian artists and producers, discover and nurture new talent, and develop new entertainment markets.