Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's flagship ports-to-telecommunications company, reported a more than sevenfold rise in first-half net profit, helped by a hefty one-off gain from the spin-off of its port assets.
But the earnings lagged market forecast as analysts said Hutchison's 3G business was not recovering as fast as expected.
"It was a little disappointing. The market had been too optimistic about its earnings," said Alex Wong, a director at Ample Finance Group.
"It may be because of the 3G business, which the market had hoped would be a big help to its earnings."
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Hutchison, whose businesses include telecommunications operator 3 Group and Watsons retail stores, reported net profit of HK$46.3 billion (Dh21.8 billion), including a one-off gain of HK$44.3 billion for the first half.
That compared with net profit of HK$6.32 billion for the first half of 2010 but lagged an average forecast of HK$51.2 billion from ten analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
Hutchison said it booked an exceptional gain of HK$44.29 billion in the first half from the Singapore initial public offering of its southern China ports assets — Hutchison Port Holdings Trust.
Its 3G arm posted an EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) of HK$767 million during the first half against an LBIT (loss before interest and tax) of HK$2 billion a year ago. Hutchison said its 3G customer base totals over 30.2 million worldwide, up only 3 per cent in the first half.
Stronger performances of its energy, retail, property and infrastructure combined to increase its first half earnings, analysts said.
"With core businesses performing well and generating cash, a stronger balance sheet and liquidity, the group is well positioned for continued growth and will continue to invest and expand its core businesses," Chairman Li Ka-shing said.
"The group's diversified portfolio of businesses worldwide will continue to perform favourably. I remain confident in the group's outlook and development in the second half of 2011," he said in a statement.
Hutchison, an associate of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd, declared an interim dividend of HK$0.55 per share, up from an interim dividend of HK$0.51 per share that it has been distributing since 2000.
Hutchison's third-generation (3G) telecommunications business, which had been losing money over the past decade but broke even in the second half of 2010, recovered further this year. Hutchison said it was expected to contribute to the conglomerate's profits in the second half of 2011.