ANALYSTS expect earnings per share for luxury hotel group Shangri-La Asia to grow six per cent at best, despite an estimated profit growth of about 40 per cent this year. The small growth in earnings per share was attributed to the issue of new shares to fund the group's acquisitions of six hotels and land in the Philippines, Indonesia and Fiji. Analysts expect this year's profit to be between $873 million and $940 million, an increase of between 38 and 48.7 per cent. Earnings per share are expected to be between 62.7 cents and 65.4 cents, a rise of 1.6 to six per cent. Dividend per share is expected to be between 30 and 35 cents, compared with 30 cents last year. Analysts expect relatively slower growth next year, with profits of $1 billion to $1.11 billion and earnings per share of between 67.8 and 75.5 cents. Last week, the hotel group reported a 33.6 per cent rise in net profits to $632 million. Morgan Grenfell analyst Tim Andrew said occupancies in the group's two hotels in Hong Kong would continue to improve but room rates would not be increased as much as last year. He said the China operations' contributions would not be as substantial as they were last year. He said Southeast Asian hotels would begin to contribute too, and that they were operating in a difficult market. Mr Andrew said net profit next year would amount to $1.11 billion with earnings per share at 75.5 cents. He said Hong Kong's hotels would remain stable with the 'usual story' - high room rates and high occupancies. The China operation is expected to continue to do well primarily because six hotels are expected to contribute to the group's earnings next year. Sun Hung Kai Research analyst Lawrence Chan believed the growth in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai hotels would continue to remain robust this year. He said the increase in rentals for office, residential and commercial premises on the group's Beijing and Shanghai properties would be larger than last year's, by between 10 and 20 per cent. DBS Securities analyst Brian Oung said the China business would grow at a slower pace than in the last year. He said it was difficult to expect a high rate of growth every year. '[Shangri-La Asia] is a buy because compared with other blue-chip hotel stocks, it's the cheapest,' Mr Oung said. Daiwa Institute of Research analyst Lanzee Fung estimated an increase of 46.4 per cent in net profit to $925 million this year, and a rise of 8.1 per cent to $1 billion next year. She said the official controls on capital investment in China might hamper the growth in business visitors, affecting demand for hotel rooms. She expects the group's earnings growth to slow down next year because of increased supply of residential, office and commercial premises in Beijing and Shanghai.