Hang Lung Properties’ net profit sinks 56 per cent on lower property sales in Hong Kong
Hang Lung Properties chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung said on Thursday the developer cut its final dividend for the first time in 16 years amid weak sales in Hong Kong and the poor retail outlook in China would be a headwind over its prospects going forward.
On Thursday, Hang Lung said core earnings plunged 56 per cent last year -the largest fall in terms of percentage points since 2011 - to HK$4.38 billion.
It owns a portfolio of eight shopping malls in the mainland which are occupied by high to mid-end retailers such as Apple, Prada, Louis Vuitton.
“The cut in dividend was not because of the question of cash flow as we have cash reserve of more than HK$30 billion. The board wanted to send out a message to our shareholders about the grim market outlook,” he said.” We do not know when spring will come back.”
The cut in dividend will only save HK$44 million.
His remarks come a day after Apple forecast its first revenue drop in 13 years and reported the slowest-ever increase in iPhone shipments as the critical Chinese market showed signs of weakening.
IPhone sales were expected to fall for the current quarter compared with the same quarter last year, chief executive officer Tim Cook said on a conference call with analysts on Wednesday.
Hang Lung is the first to kick off result announcement among developers and analysts said its performance could provide a guide for the prospects of the retail industry in the months ahead.
Other major developers who own and operate shopping malls in China include Sun Hung Kai Properties, Wharf (Holdings) and Henderson Land Development.
Mainland Chinese rents account for 54 per cent of Hang Lung’s HK$8.94 billion revenue, down 47 per cent from 2014. It declared a final dividend of 58 HK cents, 2 per cent lower than 59 HK cents in 2014.
The last time it cut its dividend was in 1999.
Chan said he was told by clients that sales in the second half were worst than the first-half of last year.
“It is not an encouraging sign as the track record shows sales in the second half year used to be better,” he said. Many high-end brands in the second-tier cities were facing difficult operating environments with decreasing sales.
“Some even exited from the market entirely, causing occupancy of our Forum 66 in Shenyang and Center 66 in Wuxi to retreat to 87 per cent and 72 per cent , respectively,” the company statement said.
Its mainland portfolio recorded a revaluation loss of HK$266 million mainly due to lower valuation of the malls at Forum 66 and Center 66 in Wuxi.
Thomas Lam, head of valuation and consultancy at Knight Frank attributed the lower revaluation reflected the malls generated less rental income from previous year.
“Landlords of mainland malls are reeling from a double whammy,” he said.
During the year, Hang Lung said property sales plunged 88 per cent to HK$1.19 billion from the sale of 63 apartments and some car parking spaces.
Chan, however, said Hang Lung gross rental income in Hong Kong and on the mainland still edged up 7 per cent to HK$7.75 billion last year due to the benefitting from various asset enhancement.
Net profit declined 56 per cent to HK$5.09 billion as a result of smaller revaluation gains on investment properties.