Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) is boosting its final dividend after returning a 27.79 per cent increase in earnings to $9.27 billion in the year to June 30. The result was at the top end of market expectations, which ranged between $8.61 billion and $9.36 billion. Analysts said the strong performance was mainly driven by the absence of provisions which hit the previous year's result, and an exceptional gain from the disposal of investments. In the previous financial year, the group's profit slumped 48.7 per cent to $7.26 billion. It was its first profit decline in 14 years and reflected a provision of $4.7 billion against development projects. SHKP capped its return to earnings growth with a final dividend of $1.05 per share, compared with 60 cents a year ago. This will bring the total payout to $1.55 per share, against $1.20 a year earlier. The group said it had generated an exceptional gain of $595 million from the disposal of an investment in an associated company. Although SHKP did not identify the investment, analysts said the profit came from the sale of its stake in SmarTone Telecommunications Holdings to British Telecom. The group's turnover for the year rose 1.97 per cent to $23.68 billion. Operating profit before exceptional items was $8.67 billion, down 28.91 per cent from $12.2 billion a year ago. Earnings per share were $3.87, up 27.3 per cent from $3.04 a year earlier. Chairman and chief executive Walter Kwok Ping-sheung said gross rental income had fallen 1 per cent from the previous year to $5.8 billion. The group had added 1.3 million square feet of new investment properties to its portfolio in the year. SHKP would continue to focus on property development and investment, Mr Kwok said, with a focus on large-scale projects containing small and medium-sized residential units. The group would also consider investing in selective technology projects to capitalise on the benefits of the information age. Mr Kwok said SHKP had completed five million sq ft of property during the year, compared with 2.56 million sq ft a year earlier. The chairman said SHKP expected to complete 4.4 million sq ft of property - including 4.1 million sq ft of residential projects - this financial year. More than 90 per cent of the residential units to be completed in the coming financial year had been pre-sold. Goldman Sachs (Asia) executive director Ting Chuk-kwan said the company's performance was in line with expectations. She said the dividend payout returned the group to its historical pattern. SHKP would continue to sustain its earnings by increasing sales volume during this financial year, Ms Ting said. BNP Prime Peregrine Securities head of Hong Kong research Adrian Ngan Wai-hung said the performance was higher than his forecast of $9 billion. 'The result was satisfactory,' he said. Mr Kwok said SHKP had generated property sales of $21.9 billion, down 15.48 per cent from $25.91 billion the previous year. As of June 30, the group's net debt to shareholders' funds was 12 per cent, he said. During the year, the group had added a total of 3.8 million sq ft of attributable gross floor area through land use conversion, bringing its land bank to 50.6 million sq ft. Its land bank had also been boosted by the recent acquisition of two residential sites in Ap Lei Chau and Kwun Tong. In the group's land bank, Mr Kwok said, was about 18.5 million sq ft of completed investment properties and 32.1 million sq ft of properties under development. SHKP said the majority of its 21 million sq ft of agricultural land in the New Territories was in the process of land-use conversion. Shares in SHKP eased $1.50 before closing at $60.50 yesterday despite the company's strong performance.