Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing released better than expected first-half results yesterday, but the bourse is facing a number of challenges, including a suspected hacker attack and volatile markets. The exchange, which reported a 14 per cent growth in interim profit of HK$2.58 billion during the lunch break, had to suspend trading in the afternoon after its regulatory disclosure website was taken down by what the exchange said was a malicious attack by hackers. The HKEx and six firms including HSBC Holdings and Cathay Pacific Airways had to suspend trading in the afternoon because their results and transactions announcements, which are posted on the HKEx website, could not be accessed by investors. It was the most serious technology problem the bourse has faced since the website was launched in 2008. Similar hacker attacks occurred after market close in 2009. Chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia said he believed few investors would seek compensation as the suspension protected investors from trading the stocks on which the information was not available. The companies are expected to resume trading today after a backup website is set up. 'I cannot guarantee no other problems will occur again, but our IT people will do their best to prevent that from happening,' Li said. 'Even the major markets like London or New York also have problems sometimes.' The incident overshadowed the HKEx's strong 14 per cent profit growth, which beat brokers' estimates of about 10 per cent. The gains were driven by higher turnover and more new listings, which lifted listing fees 11 per cent and trading fee income 15 per cent. The bourse will pay a dividend of HK$2.16 a share. The first-half's average daily turnover stood at HK$73.6 billion, up 15 per cent from a year earlier. On a quarter-to-quarter comparison, however, turnover dropped after the extension of trading hours. Average daily turnover in the second quarter stood at HK$71.1 billion, compared with HK$75.9 billion in the first. Brokers have argued that the extension of trading by one hour in March had not lifted turnover. They called for the HKEx to scrap plans to extend trading a further 30 minutes in March next year. Li, however, said the plan would go forward. 'We have never taken the extension of trading hours as a volume game. It is to align [ourselves] with the mainland and to boost the competitiveness of the local market,' he said. First China Securities chief executive Kenny Lee Yiu-sun said the exchange faced many uncertainties. 'The outlook for the HKEx is not optimistic,' Lee said. 'The global market turmoil continues and investors will become more cautious about investing in the market. Some companies may postpone or abandon their plans to go public. And lower turnover and new listings will hurt the income of the HKEx.'