A STRONG performance at associated companies helped Hutchison Whampoa report a healthy 20 per cent rise in attributable profit to $4.48 billion for the six months to June 30. The rise, within market expectations, was fully reflected in the earnings per share which rose to $1.24. A dividend of 33 cents a share was announced, up 26.9 per cent, payable on October 20 to those on the shareholders' register on October 19. Chairman Li Ka-shing said: 'The interim results, achieved in a highly competitive market and a slower retail sector, reflect the underlying strength of diversification of the group's operations in Hong Kong.' Turnover was up 20 per cent to $16.87 billion. Operating profit fell 11.2 per cent to $2.72 billion. Share or profits of associated companies leapt 54.5 per cent to $2.75 billion. This helped profit before tax to lift 12.9 per cent to $5.47 billion. Mr Li said the final seven blocks of the South Horizons development at Ap Lei Chau were completed and in excess of 1,200 car parks were sold and about 500 completed before June 30. In Hunghom, the group's Harbour Plaza was 95 per cent let. The plaza includes two office towers of 863,000 square feet, 415 hotel rooms and 101 service apartments. 'Current property market conditions should provide opportunities for the group to selectively replenish its land bank in Hong Kong as favourable opportunities arise,' Mr Li said. At 77.5 per cent-owned Hongkong International Terminals, Mr Li said container throughput was satisfactory. 'However, the rate of growth of throughput for the year is slowing down and it is anticipated that this trend will continue,' he said. Throughput at Yantian International Container Terminals, a 42.6 per cent held company, reached a 550,000 20-foot equivalent units (teu). Expansion plans are under way to raise capacity to 1.2 million teu. 'Attention is being focused on attracting new shipping lines to Yantian as a port of call where efficient handling procedures are in operation and additional infrastructural access is being made available,' Mr Li said. In May the company launched it Global System for Mobile Communications digital network. 'Despite strong competition, the paging and CT2 network services of Hutchison Paging performed satisfactorily,' Mr Li said. The profit on the sale of the group's remaining stake in STAR Television is due to be booked in the second half of the year. At Husky Oil of Canada, higher crude oil prices and higher production of crude along with natural gas led to an increase in profit despite lower natural gas prices and upgrading margins. 'New oil and gas opportunities continue to be pursued in Canada as part of Husky's exploration and development programme,' Mr Li said. The group's tax bill rose marginally less than operating or pre-tax profit in percentage terms by 17 per cent to $812 million. The implied tax bill rose to 14.8 per cent from 14.3 per cent. Minorities fell from $428 million to $185 million. A.S. Watson reported it had 479 outlets with 203 of the total in Hong Kong. Improved efficiency helped profits at Park'N Shop, which has 29 stores in Taiwan and 28 stores in China. Mr Li said: 'The group is in a strong financial position with quality recurrent earnings and dependable cash flows, and it is well-positioned and firmly committed to a focused strategy and a policy of controlled growth of its core businesses in Hong Kong, China and overseas.' In the period covered the company bought back and cancelled 6.45 million of its issued ordinary shares for $174 million.