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CapitaLand Profit Rises 49% on Strong Sales

CapitaLand, Southeast Asia's largest developer, posted a surprising 49 percent jump in fourth-quarter net profit on Friday, boosted by strong home sales in Singapore, China and Australia and a revaluation gain.

But it warned the outlook was cloudy for at least the first half of 2008 as investors hold back purchases due to the weak U.S. economy and tight credit environment.

CapitaLand posted net profit of S$674.7 million (US$478.5 million) for the three months to Dec. 31 compared with a revised S$453.5 million in the same period a year ago, partly helped by a S$136.8 million revaluation gain on its assets.

The October-December earnings were above the average forecast of S$350 million by five analysts polled by Reuters.

"The current weakness in the U.S. housing market and economy and the tight credit environment will likely cast a cloudy outlook over the general economic and business conditions for at least the first half of 2008," said CapitaLand Chairman Richard Hu in a statement.

The company said its strong cash reserves and low gearing puts it in a position "to capitalize on opportunities that could arise during this period".

CapitaLand's earnings for the full year rose 173 percent to S$2.8 billion, beating the S$2.2 billion mean forecast of 14 analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

Analyst expect sales figures and the price growth of homes to be slower in 2008, as homebuyers hold off on purchases to wait out the financial turmoil hitting global markets.

Singapore's private home price index, an indicator of profitability for CapitaLand, and rivals Keppel Land and City Developments, rose a slower 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, reflecting concerns about global growth and the effect of government measures to cool the market.

Private home prices in Singapore increased 31.2 percent while office rents climbed 56 percent last year, government data showed in January.

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