Hong Kong company reporting season

CK Property on hunt for global opportunities to extend reach to new business areas

Chairman Li Ka-shing says firm finding it a challenge to identify ‘property investments with reasonable returns’ as it reports 51pc surge in interim core profit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 5:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 11:46pm

Cheung Kong Property Holdings, Li Ka-shing’s property flagship, is spreading its net globally for opportunities in other business areas, given the challenges it faces in identifying investments with reasonable returns in the current cyclical stage in the property market.

The shift was revealed after Hong Kong’s second-largest developer reported underlying profit, excluding a revaluation gain in investment properties, rose 51 per cent to HK$8.33 billion for the first half of the year, the company said in an exchange statement.

Net profit rose 25 per cent to HK$8.6 billion while revenue increased 45 per cent to HK$27.5 billion.

An interim dividend of 38 HK cents per share was declared, up 8.6 per cent from a year ago.

“Negotiations on certain potential investments of a different business nature are under way,” said chairman Li in a statement. “These investments should provide a further impetus to the long-term sustainable growth of the group.”

CK Property first revealed the possibility of diversifying its investment portfolio during an analyst briefing earlier in the year.

Nicole Wong, regional head of property research at CLSA, suggested in a note that a prime target might be bidding for the London City Airport project.

She said the rationale was that the project “would also have a mall, with hotel extension, and car parks”, all of which CK Property had experience in.

The group eventually failed to win the project.

Li said on Thursday that propery prices in Hong Kong and on the mainland were expected to continue to be affected by high construction costs, development and marketing expenses.

As such, he said the group “will continue to strengthen its presence in the property markets in Hong Kong, on the mainland and overseas”.

Prudential Brokerage associate director Alvin Cheung Chi-wai said it was still too early to predict whether Li was turning pessimistic towards Hong Kong’s property market, “but I am sure the sector cannot provide attractive returns to the group”.

He reckoned the group would go for investments that would provide stable income to support its revenue.

Alfred Lau, an analyst at Bocom International, noted that CK Property had not bought any land recently.

“We have to see how it can find better ways of reinvesting its capital or whether the management is willing to raise its dividends or buy back shares,” he said.

Amid what has been a market correction, the only significant piece of land the company has bought over the past two years was a waterfront residential site at Lohas Park phase eight in Tseung Kwan O, which is expected to offer an abundant supply of new flats for several years.

The land premium for phase eight, which could yield a gross floor area of 1.04 million square feet, was HK$2.96 billion, or HK$2,830 per square foot.

CK Property said it had a land bank of about 141 million sq ft, excluding agricultural land and completed properties. That includes the developer’s interest in joint development projects, of which about 7.5 million sq ft is in Hong Kong, 129 million sq ft on the mainland and 4.3 million sq ft in its overseas markets such as Singapore.

The group holds the smallest land bank in Hong Kong among the city’s top three players. Leader Sun Hung Kai Properties holds a land reserve of 50.8 million sq ft while 24.4 million sq ft is held by Henderson Land Development.

Shares in CK Property have risen 46.89 per cent in the past six months. They closed 1.3 per cent lower at HK$57.05 on Thursday.

This article has been amended to correct the name and title of Nicole Wong and fix typographical errors