Hong Kong and China Gas, or Towngas - the sole piped-gas supplier to Hong Kong, controlled by tycoon Lee Shau-kee - expects "steady" customer growth in the city this year after posting a 10 per cent underlying net profit growth for last year. "Favourable employment conditions and an increasing number of inbound tourists in Hong Kong are helping to stimulate internal demand and consumer spending," the company said in a filing to Hong Kong's stock exchange after the market closed. "As the government ... is also striving to increase land and housing supply, stable growth in gas customers and gas consumption are both anticipated." Excluding revaluation gains from investment properties and unrealised losses on the yuan's depreciation, underlying net profit grew HK$640 million to around HK$7 billion last year from 2013, the company said, in line with analysts' estimate. Gas sales volume in Hong Kong rose 1 per cent, and customers rose 1.2 per cent to 1.82 million. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) of its Hong Kong operations grew 2 per cent to HK$4.28 billion, while that of its mainland gas and water utilities, excluding joint ventures, rose 15.4 per cent to HK$4.29 billion. On the mainland, where it had piped-gas distribution operations in 127 cities, gas sales grew 14 per cent to 15.2 billion cubic metres last year, while customers rose 10 per cent to 19 million. Its new energy businesses, including the collection and utilisation of methane gas from landfills in Hong Kong, saw Ebitda rise 23.8 per cent to HK$1.06 billion. A final dividend of 23 HK cents per share was proposed, bringing the total for last year to 35 HK cents, the same as for 2013.