HPH Trust posts flat earnings, lower distribution in Q4

SINGAPORE - Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPH Trust) posted stagnant fourth-quarter earnings, as revenue slid on the back of lower volumes.

Net profit attributable to unitholders for the three months to Dec 31 was flat at HK$390.1 million (S$71.3 million), compared with the HK$390 million in the same period a year ago.

However, including one-off gains such as the sale of its 60 per cent interest in a Hong Kong terminal in 2014 and the cessation of Jiuzhou's economic benefits, net profit surged 102.9 per cent to HK$533.3 million, up on the HK$18.61 billion loss previously.

The manager of the container port business trust on Tuesday declared a lower distribution of 18.7 Hong Kong cents per unit, down from the 22.3 HK cents previously.

Revenue slid 4.9 per cent to HK$3.03 billion, as container throughput of its assets in Hong Kong's Kwai Tsing slumped 13.5 per cent, dragged down by "weaker intra-Asia and transshipment cargoes", it said.

Container throughput of assets in Yantian International Container Terminals in China dipped 0.6 per cent due to weaker US and transshipment cargoes, although partially offset by the growth in empty cargoes.

For the full year, attributable net profit excluding the one-off gains climbed 2.9 per cent to HK$1.61 billion, while revenue was little changed at HK$12.61 billion, a marginal 0.1 per cent decrease from previously.

Earnings per unit came in at 6.12 HK cents, up on the loss per unit of 213.64 HK cents previously. Net asset value per unit stood at 4.89 HK cents as at Dec 31, lower than the 5.09 cents as at the same date the previous year.

"The volume of containers handled by HPH Trust is affected materially by the economic performance of the US and Europe," said the manager, noting that outbound cargoes to the US were flat in the fourth quarter last year, while the European economies continued to be weak.

But it added that the trust's deep-water channels and mega-vessel handling capabilities "position it to be the preferred port of call for mega-vessels", in line with the ongoing trend among container shipping companies.

"Given the soft global trade outlook, management remains cautious on expected cargo volume for 2016 and will continue to focus on improvements to tariffs and costs."

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg