Wheelock's core profit falls 25pc but full-year sales target met early

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 1:12am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 5:02am

Property and logistics conglomerate Wheelock & Co yesterday announced sterling sales in the first half but underlying profit, which excludes property revaluation and exceptional items, fell by more than a quarter compared with last year's high base.

Although core profit dropped 25.5 per cent to HK$3.55 billion for the six months to June 30, the firm said it had hit its full-year sales target in the first half.

Chairman Douglas Woo Chun-kuen said the company made HK$10.1 billion from selling Hong Kong properties during the period. These included the sale of a tower of the twin-tower One Bay East in Kwun Tong to US banking group Citi for HK$5.42 billion and residential units at its Grand Austin in Austin station. Both projects are due to be fully completed next year.

"The contracted sales in the first six months met our full-year sales target," said Woo.

The sales performance betters the HK$10 billion of property sales for the whole of last year. But since profits will be booked according to the completion schedule of the projects, not all sales could be incorporated into the first-half results.

BNP Paribas said in a report last night that the result was better than expected because of the high operating margin on Hong Kong property sales.

Net profit fell 29.23 per cent to HK$7.68 billion from a year ago due to lower property revaluation gains, lower contribution from associate companies and a large investment disposal profit in the preceding year that caused a high base effect. Operating profit increased 13 per cent to HK$8.24 billion, thanks to a greater contribution from Wheelock Properties Singapore.

Despite the drop in profit, directors declared an interim dividend of 38.5 HK cents a share, up from 35 HK cents in the first half of 2013.

Shares of Wheelock rose 3.16 per cent to HK$40.80 yesterday, outperforming the 0.18 per cent advance in Hang Seng Index.

On Monday, Wheelock announced the sale of Crawford House in Central to its 54.8 per cent subsidiary Wharf for about HK$2.69 billion. Woo said the sale reaffirmed the group's strategy to focus on Hong Kong development properties while Wharf would concentrate on investment properties.

The company plans to dispose of Kensington Hill, a 75-unit residential redevelopment in High Street in Hong Kong Island's Western district in the second half.