South Korea’s SK Telecom secured a foothold in China’s booming wireless market with an agreement to convert U.S. $1 billion in China Unicom (CU) bonds for shares that comprise a 6.61% stake in the Chinese mobile phone carrier. CU ranks as the second largest wireless operator in the largest cellular market on earth by numbers of subscribers. Sources say that SK, the largest wireless carrier in Korea, is looking to expand beyond its increasingly congested domestic market, and the agreement announced this week is viewed as an important step toward that goal. SK, which purchased the convertible bonds last year, will exchange those bonds into 899.75 million CU shares on September 4 at a rate of U.S. $1.10 per share. Following the transaction, SK will emerge as CU’s second largest shareholder and will exercise its right to appoint a director to the CU board. SK is also expected to assist CU in its upcoming launch of third-generation wireless services in the Chinese market. As CU Chairman Chang Xiaobing proclaimed that the deal “will further consolidate the strategic alliance between the two parties,” SK CEO Kim Shin-bae described the conversion as “a turning point.”