Hongkong Land Holdings says taxed profit more than doubled last year, helped by a write-back from the sale of its interest in embattled British conglomerate Trafalgar House. The property arm of the Jardines group said taxed profit rose to US$649.4 million, boosted by a $217 million gain from the disposal of its 26 per cent stake in Trafalgar to Kvaerver in April last year. Struggling Trafalgar generated a $158 million charge in 1995. Hongkong Land, once the dominant private landowner in Hong Kong, posted only moderate growth if the one-off gain was stripped out. Excluding the effects of Trafalgar on performance over the previous two years, net profit after tax and minority interests grew 4 per cent last year. The directors were circumspect about the results and verged on negative in discussing the group's performance for this year. 'Earnings in the current year are expected to be flat as a result of the rental reversion cycle,' chairman Simon Keswick said. 'The progress made on expanding our property and infrastructure interests in the region will, however, provide the basis for longer-term growth.' Mr Keswick said the group's operations in Hong Kong were helped by the stabilising office rental market last year. This followed a market change as office rental rates fell from their peak in 1994. The increased leasing activity in the Central business district during the year helped the group's office and retail portfolio - which totals about five million square feet - to a record 97 per cent occupancy by the year's end. The re-rating of Hong Kong property values due to a number of major market transactions resulted in a 27 per cent increase in the value of the company's investment properties. The directors said the properties would face more competition from this year due to a number of new property developments in the Central area nearing completion. The group's regional operations, held under Hongkong Land International, remained largely in a start-up phase. Net income from the group's properties increased 4.1 per cent to $485.1 million. Earnings per share soared 152 per cent to 24.67 cents. Excluding Trafalgar, they improved 3.73 per cent to 16.4 cents. The directors recommended a final dividend of 8.5 cents a share, making a total dividend of 12 cents a share, 4 per cent higher than the previous year. The results were marginally better than analysts were expecting. According to The Estimate Directory, the consensus among analysts covering the company was for profit to rise 129 per cent to $642 million. Hongkong Land shares - which trade in Singapore after the group delisted from Hong Kong in 1995 - are not expected to be influenced by the results over the next few days. Franklin Lam, property research director at SBC Warburg, said: 'For rental performance they could not have done better than this. 'Once they were the master landlord, now they are at the mercy of the market.' Looking longer term, analysts said the outlook remained negative.