Hong Kong company reporting season

Hutchison Telecom 2017 profit surges sevenfold on fixed-line disposal gain

The mobile network operator will continue investments in 5G preparations this year

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 8:57pm

Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings, a unit of tycoon Li Ka-shing’s CK Hutchison Holdings, on Monday posted a sevenfold surge in net profit to HK$4.766 billion (US$609.14 billion) for 2017, thanks to a gain from the sale of its fixed-line business.

The operator of Hong Kong’s second-largest mobile network will continue to invest in preparations for the 5G (fifth generation) services this year, according to its chief executive Cliff Woo Chiu-man.

“We’ve been doing preliminary preparations for 5G network. Once the Hong Kong government rolls out operation details, we will decide our development strategy,” Woo said.

Last July, Hutchison Telecom sold its fixed-line telecoms assets to I Squared Capital for HK$14.5 billion in cash, cementing its focus on its mobile communications business. The disposal garnered a one-off gain of HK$5.614 billion and helped boost the company’s net cash to HK$9.8 billion by December 2017.

“We are in a cash rich position for expansion opportunities and 5G investment,” Woo said.

But by excluding one-off items, Hutchison Telecom’s full-year profit dropped 20 per cent on year to HK$534 million, compared with HK$682 million in 2016. The items also included a one-off after tax and non-controlling interests accelerated depreciation charges of HK$1.39 billion for certain 2G and 3G mobile telecommunications fixed assets in Hong Kong and Macau.

“This [the drop] was because we only had a nine-month contribution from the fixed-line business in 2017, compared with a full-year [contribution] in 2016,” said Suzanne Cheng Wai-sin, chief financial officer for the company.

Earnings per share excluding the one-off items was 11.27 Hong Kong cents.

Hutchison Telecom will pay a final dividend of 4.55 Hong Kong cents, down from 6.9 Hong Kong cents a year earlier, missing market expectations of a special dividend from the fixed-line business disposal.

“The board decided not to declare any special dividend. We plan to use the proceeds to enhance long-term value for the shareholders,” said Woo.

We are in a cash rich position for expansion opportunities and 5G investment
Cliff Woo, Hutchison Telecom

Mobile revenue fell 19 per cent in 2017 to HK$6.75 billion, largely due to the decrease in hardware revenue as demand for new smartphones fell.

“2018 will be a year with many challenges,” said Woo. “Competition is intense.”

He said the company would continue to digitalise and streamline internal structure, improve IT and online platforms, and enhance overall customer experience.

Hutchison Telecom had recently collaborated with scientific research companies and start-ups to promote the development of NB-IoT (narrow band internet of things) technology, which will assist in creating long-term revenue streams, he added.

NB-IoT is a low power wide area technology standard developed to enable a wide range of IoT devices and services to be connected using cellular telecommunications bands.

Shares of Hutchison Telecom declined 2.3 per cent to close Monday at HK$3.34 before the earnings announcement.