Li Ka-shing ‘cautiously optimistic’ as CK Hutchison beats forecasts

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CK Hutchison, the flagship company of business tycoon Li Ka-shing, reported revenue and net income that exceeded expectations last year, even as Hong Kong’s richest man warned that the outlook for 2017 remained uncertain.

Net income for 2016 came in at HK$33bn ($4.25bn) against analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg of HK$31.8bn. Revenue of $372.7bn came in above analysts’ estimates of HK$284.9bn.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s group was hurt by its exposure to the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote with the company’s shares losing 10 per cent of their value in the week following the referendum.

Mr Li also suffered a setback in May when the proposed £10.5bn acquisition of UK mobile network O2 was rejected by Europe’s competition commissioner.

CK Hutchison was formed through the reorganisation of the billionaire’s two main businesses, Cheung Kong group and conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa in 2015 which spun off their property assets. CK Hutchison’s businesses include telecoms, ports, retail and infrastructure.

Higher dividends were suggested as a potential sweetener for investors as part of the reorganisation. The company today announced a final dividend of $1.945, a sliver under expectations – taking the full year dividend for 2016 to $2.68 per share compared with $2.55 the previous year.

CK Hutchison chairman Mr Li said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the group’s prospects, stating:

Market volatility, political and regulatory uncertainty and rapid accelerating technological changes affecting many of the Group’s businesses will continue in 2017.

The impact of Brexit negotiation, new US presidential policies and upcoming elections across Europe remain unknown and could affect the economic environment of countries in which the Group operates.

As the Group’s investments in the UK and Europe are businesses which focus on utilities and essential consumer goods and services, I believe these impacts will be manageable and the key fundamentals of the Group will remain solid.

Mr Li’s property arm Cheung Kong Property Holding’s separately reported underlying profits – before investment property revaluation – of $18bn, slightly less than analysts’ expectations of HK$18.2bn, with revenue at HK$69.9bn.

Cheung Kong Property Holdings and two of Mr Li’s other vehicles, Cheung Kong Infrastructure and Power Assets Holdings, this January agreed to the A$7.37bn ($5.45bn) acquisition of DUET Group, which has investments in gas pipelines and electricity distribution networks in Australia and New Zealand.

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