Rising occupancy rates in Hong Kong and growth in contributions from hotels in the Philippines and Fiji helped profits at Shangri-La Asia jump 27 per cent last year - ahead of most analysts' estimates. Attributable profit for the year to December rose to $1.09 billion from $860.41 million in 1995. Turnover also rose sharply, by 34 per cent, to $3.01 billion from $2.24 billion. Despite this, the dividend for the year was held at 30 cents, after an unchanged final payout of 15 cents a share. Analysts said this was not a surprise because the issuing of new shares to help fund acquisitions in China had diluted earnings. Earnings per share growth was held to 8 per cent, to 71.76 cents from 66.43. Managing director Paul Bush said the company decided to retain most of the profit to pay for expansion in China and it did not want to have to look to shareholders to raise further funds. The company has plans to spend up to $800 million this year. Shangri-La is 61.7 per cent owned by the Kuok group, controlled by Malaysian businessman Robert Kuok, who is also a major shareholder of South China Morning Post (Holdings). Booming tourist arrivals last year fed into improved occupancy rates at the group's two hotels in the territory. Kowloon Shangri-La's occupancy rate climbed to 84 per cent from 80 per cent in 1995, while Island Shangri-La in Admiralty enjoyed 81 per cent occupancy, up five percentage points. This was at a time when both increased their average room rates by at least 6 per cent. Most hotels are already fully booked during the handover period but it is likely the early part of this year also will be busy with visitors looking to catch a last glimpse of colonial Hong Kong. 'Occupancy rates will edge up further in 1997,' Rohan Dalziell, analyst at ING Baring Securities, said. In China, combined occupancy rates at the group's seven hotels, excluding the three opened last year, was at the same level as 1995 - 69 per cent. Xian Shangri-La Golden Flower Hotel experienced strong growth in demand, with a 19 percentage point rise in occupancy to 60 per cent. Hotels in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shenzhen were affected by falling visitor numbers and shorter average stays. Hotels in Qingdao and Dalian are due to open in the second half of this year and the 606-room Shangri-La Pudong in Shanghai is expected to open for business late next year. Chairman Liu Tai Fung said the group's hotels in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia and Fiji should all benefit from stronger demand this year. 'The three new hotels in China are expected to increase market share in their respective cities. While the immediate outlook for the hotels in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shenzhen is mixed, they stand to benefit when market conditions improve,' he said. The company is looking at hotel investments in Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney. It may bid for a 1,100-room hotel at Tai Kok Tsui near Chek Lap Kok airport.