Billionaire Li's CK Hutchison posts higher-than-expected profit

Cranes and shipping containers stand on the dockside at the Port of Felixstowe, a subsidiary of CK Hutchison Holdings, on Feb 2, 2016.
Cranes and shipping containers stand on the dockside at the Port of Felixstowe, a subsidiary of CK Hutchison Holdings, on Feb 2, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Billionaire Li Ka-shing's flagship CK Hutchison Holdings reported earnings that exceeded analysts' estimates, helped by higher profits at its European mobile-phone operations.

Profit, excluding earnings from discontinued operations, rose 1.9 per cent to HK$15.2 billion (S$2.6 billion) during the first six months of 2016, compared with HK$14.9 billion a year earlier, CK Hutchison said in a statement on Thursday. The results beat the HK$14.8 billion median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of six analysts. Though the mobile-phone business helped profits during the half, headwinds abound.

Mr Li, who had urged Britons to vote in favour of staying in the European Union before the June 23 vote, is now bracing for the economic fallout from Brexit as CK Hutchison counts the U.K. as its biggest earnings contributor.

The Bank of England earlier this month cut the nation's benchmark interest rate and expanded a stimulus plan as it prepares for a downturn. The central bank also cut its economic growth forecast for next year and 2018, citing concerns about weaker investment and consumption.

The 88-year-old tycoon's attempts to cut his reliance on the UK hit an obstacle on Thursday after the Australian government signaled it will block a bid by Mr Li's Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd. for a local electricity distributor. The company has a week to submit a revised offer. The Australian decision is the latest in a series of setbacks in the past few months for Hong Kong's richest man, whose business empire sprawls across energy to infrastructure and telecommunications. A plan to merge Mr Li's UK business with Telefonica SA's O2 was blocked by regulators in May, months after Hong Kong minority shareholders blocked the US$12.4 billion buyout offer for his Power Assets unit.

Meanwhile, Cheung Kong Property Holdings said first-half underlying profit rose 51 per cent as strong mainland sales offset a decline in Hong Kong.

Profit before investment property revaluation in the six months to June 30 was HK$8.3 billion from HK$5.54 billion a year earlier, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange statement on Thursday.

Hong Kong developers faced headwinds in the first half as prices of secondary properties declined 12 per cent from a September high and sales transactions have dropped 35 per cent amid slower growth, economic uncertainty and forecasts of a large increase in supply as the government tries to make housing more affordable. CK Property is the first major Hong Kong residential developer to release half-year results.