SOUTH China Morning Post (Holdings) saw a dip in profit attributable to shareholders in the year ended June 30, but operating profit was up. Profit attributable to shareholders fell 3.8 per cent to $564.1 million. Operating profit, before exceptionals, rose 15.64 per cent to $671.16 million. The result was well ahead of expectations. According to the Estimate Directory, analysts had been forecasting a taxed profit, after stripping out the exceptional, of $541 million, up 10 per cent, with earnings per share at about 36 cents, up 13 per cent. Chairman Robert Kuok said: 'The advent of a new English-language newspaper last February has not adversely affected either revenues or circulation. 'In fact, revenues set a new record for the last six months of the year and the average daily circulation figures . . . show a healthy increase in the daily figures.' A final dividend of 13 cents was declared, taking the total for the year to 30 cents, flat on the previous year. The final dividend is payable on or before November 18. Group revenue rose 17.26 per cent to $1.22 billion. The exceptional item of $92.4 million appeared in the previous accounts on the disposal of investment properties. The item, taken as an extraordinary in the previous year's accounts, was reclassified as an exceptional under new Hong Kong accounting rules in the 1994 accounts. Earnings per share, after the exceptional item, were down 3.78 per cent to 37.61 cents, against 39.09 cents previously. The figure before exceptional items showed earnings per share up 14.21 per cent, on 32.93 cents a year earlier. Dividend payout ratio rose from 76.73 per cent to 79.77 per cent. Lehman Brothers director of research Kirk Sweeney said: 'The results were slightly ahead of our forecast, inferring very strong revenue growth in the second half and maintenance of profit margin, which is very commendable. 'These are great results.' Crosby Securities head of equities research Archie Hart said: 'It was a good performance. It was at the top of market expectations.' HG Asia analyst Jonathan Harris said: 'There was not much surprising there. It was ahead of expectations and shows the company held up well against competition.' Operating profit margin eased slightly to 54.97 per cent from 55.74 per cent. Profit before exceptional items and associated company results was up 15.64 per cent to $671.16 million. Profit after exceptionals, but before tax, was down a marginal 0.2 per cent to $671.95 million. Circulation at the South China Morning Post in the second half of last year, against the second half of 1992, rose 2.49 per cent to 112,880 copies a day. The Sunday Morning Post was up 3.26 per cent to 87,918. Comparing the first half of this year with the same period last year, circulation rose 3.7 per cent to 105,458 copies for the South China Morning Post and 0.13 per cent to 87,739 for the Sunday Morning Post. Mr Kuok said work at the new printing plant site in Tai Po was going ahead with staff moves there beginning later this year, for completion by June next year. Mr Kuok said: 'Reflecting the continued strength of the Hong Kong economy, the prospects for the company remain good.'