Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., billionaire Li Ka-shing’s biggest company, posted full-year profit that beat analyst estimates on improved earnings from retail, telecom and utilities businesses from China to the U.K.
Net income was HK$26.1 billion ($3.4 billion) in 2012, the Hong Kong-based company said yesterday. That compares with the HK$24 billion average of eight analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Recurring earnings, which excludes asset sales and property revaluations, jumped 19 percent to HK$26.8 billion.
Growth in retail and property as well as foreign exchange gains boosted operating income, the company said. Li, Asia’s richest man, acquired new wireless spectrum in the U.K. and bought the third-ranked mobile carrier in Austria to bolster phone services in Europe as his ports business expanded in Hong Kong on a bet on rising trade in the south China region.
“Income from retail was quite solid,” said Louis Tse, a Hong Kong-based director at VC Brokerage Ltd. “They receive quite a bit of revenue in euro, and in the second half of last year the euro had a rebound.”
Hutchison, with investments in more than 50 countries, increased revenue 4 percent to HK$398 billion, it said.
Shares of Hutchison rose 1.6 percent to HK$81.95 at the close of Hong Kong trading.
Li, 84, is 15th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $27.2 billion as of today. Since opening a plastic flower factory following World War II, the man nicknamed “superman” by the local media for his investing prowess has expanded his empire to span ports in China, property in Hong Kong, mobile phone carriers in Europe and oil exploration in Canada.
Hutchison said earnings before interest and tax at its European mobile phone unit, which operates the 3 brand in the U.K., doubled to HK$3.1 billion on data and smartphone sales.
The division, which owns units in six countries in Europe, posted its first annual profit in 2010, seven years after starting services. In January, it completed the purchase of Orange Austria, the nation’s third ranked carrier.
“All our businesses are in the contributing stage now, the 3 Group in particular,” Group Managing Director Canning Fok said at a news conference in Hong Kong yesterday. “The Hong Kong Group is always solid.”
Earnings from finance and investments surged almost fivefold to HK$2.3 billion after realizing foreign exchange gains and higher interest income.
Ebit from ports fell 0.7 percent to HK$7.8 billion.
The company owns 28 percent of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, which Li spun off in 2011 with assets in China and Hong Kong. The trust this month bought a Hong Kong box terminal from DP World Ltd. and a partner as the billionaire bets on rising trade in the south China region.
Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd., the roads and utilities arm of Hutchison, rose 23 percent to HK$16.6 billion.
Property and hotels Ebit rose 11 percent to HK$10.5 billion after boosting rental rates and maintaining occupancy levels, it said,
“In the middle of last year, you can see some sign of rebound and recovery in the global economy,” said Kenny Tang Sing Hing, General Manager at AMTD Financial Planning Ltd before the earnings.
Husky Energy Inc., the Calgary, Alberta-based oil producer part-owned by Hutchison, last month reported 2012 profit fell 9.1 percent amid lower-than-expected refining margins.
Husky’s contribution to Hutchison earnings fell 14 percent to HK$7.4 billion.
Hutchison’s retail business, which includes Hong Kong’s PARKnSHOP supermarket stores and the A.S. Watson cosmetics chain, said earnings gained 7.7 percent to HK$10 billion.
“In 2013, the A.S. Watson group will continue to expand its store base in regions with high growth potential, including the Mainland and certain Asian countries,” the company said.