Hutchison Whampoa

Hutchison set for 7pc increase in profit

Interim results expected to show gains of more than HK$10 billion for first half, despite losses of up to HK$830 million from Australian unit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 4:47am

Hutchison Whampoa, the flagship conglomerate controlled by Li Ka-shing, is expected to report an increase in first-half net profit this week of about 7 per cent, analysts say.

Interim results due on Thursday are forecast to show a net profit of between HK$10.5 billion and HK$10.9 billion after taking into account losses from its Australian telecommunications operation, which analysts estimate range from HK$600 million to HK$830 million.

On the same day, associate company Cheung Kong (Holdings) is expected to report a year-on-year decline of as much as 27 per cent in first-half core profit, to HK$9.3 billion.

Credit Suisse estimates the firm's profit from property sales for the first half will drop 64 per cent to HK$2.2 billion, as no projects were completed in Hong Kong during the period.

However, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley expect growing contributions to Cheung Kong from Hutchison to offset, at least in part, the decline in gains on property sales.

Profit-growth drivers for Hutchison include 3G Europe. It should post an 84 per cent year-on-year jump in earnings before interest and tax to HK$1.7 billion, thanks to nearly six months of contributions from the newly merged Orange Austria, Morgan Stanley analysts predict. Strong growth momentum and increased market share in Britain last year are expected to have continued in the first half.

Other growth segments include Cheung Kong Infrastructure, Husky Energy and Hutchison's retail business, in contrast to loss-making Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia) Ltd.

"HTAL has been losing customers for nine consecutive quarters and dropped about 200,000 subscribers, or a 3.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter decline, in the first quarter of this year," Morgan Stanley said.

"However, we expect a narrowing of net losses from HK$1.8 billion in the second half of last year to HK$800 million in the first half of this year, driven by restructuring exercises, including closure of retail shops, moving to operate under one brand and job cuts."

Credit Suisse predicts Hutchison's retail division should deliver high single-digit percentage growth in the interim results, while its 3G business should grow 114 per cent and other established businesses about 8 per cent.

"We do not expect much surprise from the results," analysts Cusson Leung and Joyce Kwock said in their report.

"Despite market volatility and concerns about rising United States rates and a slowing China economy, Hutchison has delivered consistent outperformance over the past few months.

"We also believe Hutchison's strategy to take an active role in the European telco market consolidation is being appreciated by the market. While its talks with Telecom Italia were dashed, we are hoping the acquisition in Ireland will help to turn the business around in 2014."

UBS analyst Angus Chan forecasts a net profit for Hutchison of HK$10.5 billion after accounting for losses from its Australian telecommunications business.