Hutchison's 2007 Net Rises 53% on Asset Sales

Hutchison Whampoa, billionaire Li Ka-shing's ports-to-telecoms flagship, posted a 53 percent rise in 2007 net profit on Thursday, slightly lagging forecasts, riding a strong showing at its Canadian Husky Energy unit and a raft of asset sales.

The company reported a net profit of HK$30.6 billion (US$3.93 billion) for the year ended Dec. 31, compared with HK$20.03 billion a year ago. The results were lower than the average forecast of HK$31.91 billion, according to 10 analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

But stripping out an exceptional gain of HK$35.8 billion from the sale of its Indian mobile phone network, Hutchison operated in the red in 2007 due to heavy losses from its third-generation (3G) mobile telecoms business.

Struggling since the service was launched in Britain in 2003, Hutchison's underperforming 3G unit could turn in its first operating profit in 2008, some analysts say. But the 3G division is likely to overshadow Hutchison's share price performance over the longer term. The stock rose just 12 percent in 2007 versus a near-40 percent gain on the blue chip Hang Seng Index.

Li, who built a plastic flower business into a global empire of ports, drugstores, power providers, telecoms carriers, supermarkets and real estate across 55 countries, controls Hutchison and sister property firm Cheung Kong.