Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa profit rises 178%

Stephen Coates
Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing, says its 2011 net profit leapt 178 percent thanks to strong recurring revenue, earnings and cashflow growth

Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing, said Thursday its 2011 net profit leapt 178 percent thanks to strong recurring revenue, earnings and cashflow growth.

The conglomerate spanning ports to telecoms and financial services said it booked a net profit of HK$56.02 billion ($7.21 billion) in the year to December 31, compared with HK$20.18 billion the previous year.

Total revenue grew 22 percent to HK$387.72 billion, boosted by a gain of HK$44.3 billion from the sale of a ports unit in Singapore in the first quarter of the year.

Excluding profits on investment property revaluation and the disposal of investments, net profit totalled HK$22.56 billion in 2011, or 36 percent more than the previous year.

"In 2011, uncertain economic conditions affected most markets and geographies to varying degrees," Li, 83, said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

"A measure of uncertainty is expected to remain in 2012," citing a short-term slowdown in China due to monetary tightening to manage inflation.

Hutchison announced its results after markets closed with its shares down 0.44 percent at HK$79.05. The overall Hang Seng index had dropped 1.32 percent.

Blue-chip developer Cheung Kong Holdings, Li's property flagship, said its net profit rose 72 percent in 2011, boosted mainly by gains from its transfer of a Beijing commercial project to a sister company.

Cheung Kong said net profit for the 12 months to December 31 rose to HK$46.06 billion from HK$26.84 billion. Revenue rose 29 percent to HK$42.36 billion from HK$32.86 billion.

Forbes magazine recently named Li Asia's richest man with an estimated wealth of $25.5 billion.

His personal fortune is believed to have grown significantly in recent years thanks to investments in technology companies including Facebook, Spotify, Skype and Siri.

Despite his financial successes, Li lost a political battle on the weekend when his choice for Hong Kong's next leader, Henry Tang, failed to win the backing of the city's pro-Beijing electoral committee.

The chief executive job went to former property developer Leung Chun-ying, whose "populist" campaign commitments to give the poor a greater share of Hong Kong's wealth spooked some of the city's powerful tycoons.

Nicknamed "Superman" for his business acumen, Li expressed support for the incoming leader and again denied media reports that he was planning to divest some of Hutchison's assets in the southern Chinese city.

"Everyone should support the government... A government is not one person, it is a whole government," he told reporters at a press conference.

"I definitely won't stop investing in Hong Kong," he said, adding that he was in good health, exercised daily and ate well.

The group's ports division started commercial operation of two new deepwater berths last year in the Port of Felixstowe, the largest UK container port, and acquired operating rights to four berths in the United Arab Emirates.

It will open six new berths this year, in Australia, China, Malaysia and Spain, the company said.

The hotels division, which has 9,370 rooms in 12 properties including eight in Hong Kong, reported "very strong earnings growth" thanks in part to healthy tourist arrivals in the city.

The retail business posted a 19-percent gain in net profit to HK$9.33 billion, due to strong returns in Asia and a "satisfying" performance in Europe.

Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings, the group's locally listed subsidiary operating in Hong Kong and in Macau, generated revenue of HK$13.41 billion, an increase of 36 percent on the previous year.