Hutchison, Cheung Kong H1 net down but beat f'casts

HONG KONG - Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing, posted a 63 percent fall in first-half earnings on a lack of major asset sales but beat forecasts as lower 3G telecoms losses and a strong performance at Husky Energy boosted its underlying profit.

By (Reuters)

Published: Thu 21 Aug 2008, 2:05 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:55 AM

Hutchison, the ports-to-telecoms conglomerate, said losses before interest and taxes at its third-generation (3G) mobile unit fell by nearly two-thirds to HK$3.18 billion ($407.2 million) from HK$11.3 billion a year earlier as subscriber churn slowed and handsets got cheaper.

The 3 Group, which has 19 million customers globally, reported a 14 percent rise in revenue to HK$32 billion in the first six months.

Hutchison's $25 billion investment in 3G mobile telecoms has been a drag on its performance since 2000. The company on Thursday reiterated its target of reaching positive monthly earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) on a sustainable basis in the second half of 2008 and a full year positive EBIT in 2009.

That would improve Hutchison's free cashflow, allowing the firm to accelerate the pace of acquisitions, such as in ports, to take advantage of falling asset prices globally, they said.

Six-month earnings at sister firm Cheung Kong (Holdings) HK , which owns nearly half of Hutchison, fell by 35 percent to HK$12.02 billion, topping an average forecast of HK$6.1 billion by four analysts polled by Reuters.

Before the Hutchison contribution, Cheung Kong's operating profit fell 60 percent on higher flat sales booked during the period.

Hutchison and Cheung Kong, the city's second-largest property developer by market value, are the twin flagships of the 80-year-old Li's multibillion dollar empire.

Shrugging off concerns over a slowing global economy, Li gave an optimistic outlook.

‘Looking ahead, the group's businesses are expected to continue to perform well,’ he said.

Hutchison's January-June net profit of HK$10.69 billion compared with HK$28.8 billion a year earlier and compared with an average forecast of HK$8.47 billion from four analysts polled by Reuters.


Hutchison stock fell 1.5 percent to HK$70.4 on Thursday ahead of the results, beating a 1.8 percent loss in the blue chip Hang Seng Index

Hutchison is down 20 percent this year, well below the market's 26 percent fall. Cheung Kong has lost 32 percent.

Although analysts expect Hutchison to try to unlock value from 3G by selling its operations in Britain and Italy, its two main markets, falling asset prices could further stall its divestment pace.

Hutchison withdrew a plan to list its largest 3G business, in Italy, in 2006 when it was unable to fetch its target valuation for the business.

However, a global economic downturn has had little impact thus far on Hutchison's operations worldwide, with profit from its established businesses, from ports to retail, rising 46 percent in the first half from a year earlier.

Record oil prices helped Canadian affiliate Husky Energy's contribution to Hutchison's bottom line rise by 64 percent in the first six months of 2008. Its sale of 50 percent of the Sunrise oil sands to a joint venture with BP Plc also generated a further HK$3.1 billion of profit.

Hutchison's port unit, with operations in 24 countries, saw earnings rise 19 percent with a HK$548 million gain from the sale of a 9 percent stake in Freeport Container Port. Throughput rose 4 percent during the reported period.

The group's retail business saw its earnings rise 54 percent although retail sales in Europe are stagnating.

Li, known in Hong Kong as ‘Superman’ for his deAl making prowess, built a plastic flower business into a global empire that stretches across 57 countries that has made him one of the richest people in Asia.

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