A STEEP rise in property sales with steady rental growth boosted Sun Hung Kai Properties' full-year profit by 32 per cent to a record $8.81 billion from $6.69 billion, which was well in line with market's expectations. Earnings per share for the year ended June rose 24 per cent to $3.91 each from $3.16 in the previous year. Chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung said the company would sustain a satisfactory growth in both earnings and dividends in view of the cautiously optimistic outlook in the territory's real estate market. The property powerhouse yesterday declared a final dividend of $1.01 per share. A special cash bonus of 38 cents a share was also recommended. Together with the interim dividend of 53 cents a share, total dividend and cash bonus for the full year amounted to $1.92 per share. It represented an increase of 25 per cent over the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up 32 per cent to $10.22 billion from $7.73 billion. Turnover also jumped in a similar margin to $17.78 billion, mainly thanks to the 48 per cent increase in property sales to $15.25 billion from $10.31 billion. According to Mr Kwok, properties completed in the year amounted to 3.9 million sq ft. Other than those retained for rental, almost all properties have been sold. In the coming year, Mr Kwok said the future profitability had been protected because about 5.9 million sq ft of properties would be completed and a large portion of them had been sold in the past few months. They included the large partial sale in the one million sq ft Villa Athena in Ma On Shan and the 568,000 sq ft Pristine Villa in Sha Tin and the sale of the 620,000 sq ft Sea Crest residential project in Tsuen Wan. Mr Kwok said another sizeable residential project, Royal Ascot in Ho Tung Lau area in Sha Tin, which has a total gross floor area of about 1.47 million sq ft, would be put on the market for pre-sale in the coming months. The forthcoming launch pre-sale projects include Palm Springs Phases 1D and 1E in Yuen Long. The company has a land bank amounting to a gross floor area of 40.9 million sq ft, which consists of 28.5 million sq ft of properties under development and 12.4 sq ft of completed investment properties which generated a gross rental income for the year to $3.34 billion. It represented a 23 per cent rise over the preceding year. Mr Kwok expected that the group's rental income would grow significantly in the coming years. Since the last financial year, Sun Hung Kai acquired 13 sites for development and one completed property for investment, with a total gross floor area of 4.17 million sq ft. The sites were mainly residential properties. Looking ahead in the residential market, Mr Kwok said: 'The fundamental factors underpinning the residential market remain unchanged, though interest rate movements need to be monitored. I am cautiously optimistic about the outlook for the residential market in Hong Kong.' Regarding the office sector, Mr Kwok said: 'The market is expected to stay firm in the coming year'. Analysts found no surprises in Sun Hung Kai's 32 per cent profit rise and they maintained their earnings projections for the coming year. Sun Hung Kai's profit surge was generally within the market's expectations.