Hutchison Whampoa

HTIL suffers interim loss on disposal

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2005, 12:00am

Hutchison Telecommunications International (HTIL), hit by a disposal loss in the first six months, says it has no immediate plans for further asset sales and expects to break even on the bottom line by the year's end.

'We are confident that for the full year of 2005, HTIL will get closer to a positive net income position,' said chief financial officer Tim Pennington, referring to the group's narrowing interim operating loss.

The emerging markets telecommunications arm of Hutchison Whampoa yesterday posted a $352 million interim net loss compared with a restated net profit of $793 million a year ago. The company sold its Paraguay mobile operations in May at a loss of $344 million but said its second half was unlikely to be affected by divestments.

Chief executive Dennis Lui Pok-man said HTIL maintained its double-digit, full-year growth targets for mobile customers and revenue. The company had a mobile subscriber base of 14.1 million in its seven markets as at June, up 30.9 per cent from a year ago.

An analyst said HTIL's mobile division had made an operating loss of $153 million in Hong Kong and Macau, due to heavy subscriber acquisition costs for its third generation business. With 351,000 3G customers in a subscriber base of 2.2 million, its average revenue per 3G user stood at $240, HTIL said.

Following the privatisation of fixed-line unit Hutchison Global Communications (HGC) in July, Mr Lui said the group would grow its Hong Kong business through the cross-selling of mobile and fixed-line services.

Meanwhile, India continued to be the group's strongest performer, as its subscriber base rose 46.8 per cent to 8.4 million, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) jumped 66.7 per cent to $1.58 billion.

Mr Lui confirmed reports that its 53.1 per cent-owned India mobile flagship, Hutchison Max Telecom (HMT), intended to buy BPL Communications.

HTIL said it was also in advanced discussions to buy seven new mobile licences from its Indian partner Essar Group. These deals would give HMT licences covering all 23 regions of the country.

'Its current share price had already priced in expectations for these Indian acquisitions to succeed. If not, HTIL's share price will drop back to $7.40,' an analyst said. HTIL closed unchanged yesterday at $8.65.

The company said HMT's planned initial public offering had been put on hold, pending government clarification on foreign investment regulations.

HTIL booked a $295 million disposal loss related to the Paraguay sale to Mexico's America Movil after a small disposal gain in India.

Excluding the loss, the interim operating loss narrowed to $57 million, compared with a loss of $507 million a year ago, if its $1.3 billion one-off gain from the HGC disposal is excluded.

Meanwhile, the group booked its first consolidated contribution from its 52 per cent-owned Israeli mobile arm unit Partner Communications which saw ebitda rise 5 per cent to 420.8 million shekels ($729 million).

With 2.4 million subscribers, Israel was the group's second-biggest market in terms of revenue and subscribers.

HTIL in the red on asset disposal