Profits at Gordon Wu Ying-sheung's flagship Hopewell Holdings have shown a dramatic first-half slump, forcing the infrastructure group to slash its payout to shareholders. Unlike the previous year, when profit was buoyed by a $964 million one-off gain from the sale of a stake in its Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Zhuhai Superhighway, Hopewell could not rely on asset sales to boost its results for the six months to December. Attributable profit dropped almost 63 per cent from $1.25 billion to $466.4 million - a result which would have looked even worse without a tax write-back of $195.7 million. The extent of the slump surprised analysts, who have become frustrated with the unpredictable nature of the company and its colourful managing director. Shareholders, among whom Mr Wu is the single largest with 28 per cent, will see their dividend cut from 10 cents in the first half of 1994 to just three cents. Earnings per share fell 62 per cent to 11 cents. Mr Wu is one of Hong Kong's best-known businessmen. Last November he donated US$100 million (HK$772.5 million) of his personal fortune to Princeton University in the United States, where he studied in the 1950s. Of Hopewell's operating profit of $406 million, $150 million came from property rentals, $50 million from hotel operations, $50 million from the group's power plants and the remainder from interest income. Hopewell's result contrasted with the figures of its listed power generating arm, Consolidated Electric Power Asia (Cepa), which saw first-half profit rise 25.7 per cent to $295.6 million. Despite the rise, however, directors decided to keep the dividend unchanged at 6 cents. Mr Wu had earlier said Cepa's dividends would jump to about 80 per cent of earnings to help Hopewell repay a $7 billion loan from Hongkong Bank. His ability to cut Hopewell's hefty $9 billion of corporate debt also depends on his ability to sell off a substantial stake in a new company that brings together Hopewell's existing and future transport projects and related property developments. With just over three months remaining in the financial year, which ends June 30, investors are wondering whether Mr Wu can make good on his promise to sell up to 40 per cent in Consolidated Real Estate and Transport Asia (Creata) to Japanese and Singapore investors. Executive director Robert Nien said yesterday he was optimistic that some of the expected $11 billion private placement would be made before June 30, but he would not give a timetable. 'We see that [investors] are interested. What remains is negotiations on the terms and the price,' he said. Hopewell also announced traffic is gradually building on its 122.8-kilometre Guangzhou superhighway, from 38,000 vehicles daily in 1994 to about 50,000 per day last year.