A RESPECTABLE 18 per cent rise in profit at Hutchison Whampoa is expected by analysts for the year to December 31. Profit attributable at Hong Kong's largest conglomerate is forecast to reach HK$9.5 billion with earnings per share rising by the same margin, to HK$2.63. Dividend per share is expected at HK$1.08. ING Barings says the company is considered one of the highest quality companies in Hong Kong, with particular value placed on its port and telecommunications interests. Last year it overtook Hongkong Telecom as the US investor's best-loved Hong Kong stock. The value of US investor holdings in the company rose above US$1 billion for the first time, while US holdings in Hongkong Telecom fell below that mark. Results for last year are expected to be significantly affected by a large exceptional on the sale of StarTV, with an estimated profit of HK$750 million. Earnings are being affected by a downturn in development profits. The group is underweight in the Hong Kong property market, which is expected to see some recovery over the next two years. Over the longer term, investors are focusing on three key developments at the company. Port earnings are due to underpin earnings in the future. The group increased exposure to earnings at Hong Kong International Terminals. ING Barings says China port development will show rapid profit growth over the next five years. Shanghai is contributing while Yantian is expected to kick in earnings next year. 'Further expansion of these ports and in a multitude of smaller terminals, including Zhuhai, Shantou and Nanhai, will maintain medium-term earnings,' the brokerage said. The second factor exciting investors in Hutchison is telecommunications and the imminent listing of Orange in Britain. In Hong Kong the group has restructured its telecoms interest with renewed focus on regional expansion. Analysts estimate Orange's value at GBP2.5 billion (about HK$29.5 billion), net of debt. Since its launch in April 1994, Orange has confounded sceptics by its unprecedented growth in the British market, with about 400,000 subscribers. The final factor exciting investors is that property investment income at the group is due to get a big boost in 1998 and 1999. The group's Hilton site is due to come on to the market by this time and should contribute significantly to earnings. With parent Cheung Kong, it has exposure to developments, including Tsing Yi, that will kick in by 1999.