Overseas portfolio helps infrastructure company boost earnings 6pc to $3.55b Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (CKI) is pursuing a separate listing of its Australian portfolio after overseas contributions helped propel net profit 6.18 per cent higher to $3.55 billion last year. 'Some investment banks have approached us with spin-off proposals and we are considering the issue,' chairman Victor Li Tzar-kuoi said yesterday. 'However, we don't want to specify a timetable or our preference of stock markets.' CKI's Australian investments - mainly in energy and water supply, toll roads and tunnels - made a $1.38 billion profit last year, up 41 per cent from 2003. This figure includes a $400 million one-off gain from a tax deferment on Powercor Australia, an electricity distribution joint venture between CKI and associate Hongkong Electric Holdings. CKI managing director Kam Hing-lam said regulated Australian industries such as power transmission and distribution suited the group's appetite for projects with stable, but high returns. 'It's a market we are familiar with,' Mr Li said. 'Our returns on overseas projects reach double digits on average.' So far, CKI has put A$4.8 billion into Australia. Mr Li said 49 per cent-owned AquaTower, an Australian water provider, and 40 per cent-owned North England Gas Distribution Network would start contributing to CKI this year. He also said the company had $9.02 billion in cash and a net debt-equity ratio of 14 per cent, and was scouting for infrastructure projects in Britain, North America and Australia. CKI's strong overseas contributions masked a non-recurring loss of $250 million on impairment of asset value of the group's cement unit. This prompted a $279 million loss on the infrastructure-related business unit last year against a $19 million profit in 2003. The profit contribution from Hongkong Electric, which supplies electricity to Hong Kong and Lamma islands, grew 5.43 per cent to $2.4 billion. In the mainland, the group's portfolio contributed $480 million in profits last year, with the core asset - a 2x600 megawatt power plant in Zhuhai - selling 30 per cent more electricity than its minimum requirement. Earnings per share were up 6 per cent at $1.58. The directors proposed to raise the final dividend 14 per cent to 57 cents per share, making the full-year payout 10.48 per cent higher at 79 cents.