China Mobile, the world's largest mobile operator, reported a 3.6 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, its best profit in a year and beating expectations as revenues per user posted a rare rise despite intense competition.

China Mobile clocked October-December net profit of 31.3 billion yuan ($4.6 billion), based on Reuters calculations using company figures, versus 30.2 billion yuan a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected an average quarterly net profit of 30.4 billion yuan.

The company posted a full-year net profit of 115.2 billion yuan, according to a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The company said average revenue per user, or ARPU, rose to 77 yuan per month in 2009 from 75 yuan for the first nine months of the year.

China Mobile, the world's largest mobile carrier by market value and subscribers, has about 500 million users, more than the combined populations of the United States, Germany and Britain.

Shares of China Mobile and rivals China Telecom and China Unicom all trailed the broader market last year, with China Mobile dipping slightly in 2009 when the benchmark Hang Seng index <.HSI> rose over 50 percent.

(Reporting by Doug Young; Editing by Anshuman Daga and Jonathan Hopfner)