Big summer sales campaign planned to boost subscriber take-up in UK, Italy Hutchison Whampoa says it is satisfied with the subscriber take-up for its third-generation (3G) mobile-phone services in Europe despite a slow start. Chairman Li Ka-shing - after yesterday's annual meetings of Hutchison and Cheung Kong (Holdings) - said a big summer sales campaign was planned for Italy and Britain next month to boost customer numbers. Hutchison said it had signed up 90,000 3G users in Italy and 25,000 in Britain since launching its services in March. The numbers are below analysts' expectations and have raised doubts the conglomerate can achieve its target of one million subscribers in each of its two main European markets by the end of the year. However, Mr Li again showed his optimism yesterday for Hutchison's multibillion-dollar 3G venture, saying the company was on track to achieve its target. 'We are very satisfied with Italy, and satisfied in Britain,' he said, adding the company had spent the first two months smoothing out teething problems. 'My senior management team has told me that in 2? years our business in Italy will be better than Orange [the mobile company Hutchison sold in 1999],' he said. Mr Li said the Italian operation had been adding users at a maximum daily rate of 1,500, but within 40 days it would be able to handle 3,000 users a day. He said the summer campaign would be an important test for Hutchison's British business and he did not rule out a handset subsidy. Group managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning said that despite many of its European rivals making hefty provisions for their 3G investments, Hutchison had no plan to follow suit in view of its strong performance in Italy. But he said there was no guarantee Hutchison would not write down 3G assets in future. Mr Li said Hutchison had sold down 60 per cent of its Vodafone Group and Deutsche Telekom shares this year, cashing in more than $20 billion. The sales were made at a premium, he said, referring to Hutchison's remaining stakes in the two companies as 'non-core assets'. He said Hutchison would announce the launch date of its Hong Kong 3G services by the end of next month. Mr Li said the Sars outbreak had dealt a bigger blow to the local economy than the Asian financial crisis. The occupancy rates of many hotels had fallen to 10 per cent while falling tourist arrivals had hit retail sales. He hoped the economy would improve in the second half of the year. His advice was: 'Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best.' He said the property market was stable and Sars had not disrupted marketing of Cheung Kong's projects. But sales of some mainland projects had been delayed. Mr Li also said a weak US dollar would be positive for Hong Kong's competitiveness.