HUTCHISON WHAMPOA PROFITS RISE 14 PERCENT

HUTCHISON WHAMPOA PROFITS RISE 14 PERCENT

Another of Hong Kong's diversified conglomerates reported Tuesday it enjoyed higher profits in 1987 despite a sharp decline in the growth of its earnings.

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., a property, retailing, communications and container port operator, turned in after-tax profit for the year through Dec. 31 of HK$1.85 billion (US$237 million), at the bottom end of most analysts' predictions.While those profits are 14 percent higher than the HK$1.6 billion (US$205 million) in 1986, the rate of increase is smaller. Hutchison profits jumped 37 percent in 1986, and there was a one-for-four bonus issue.

Extraordinary items add HK$754 million (US$97 million) to the 1987 results, primarily from sales of property and unspecified investment holdings. Non- recurring items in 1986 totaled HK$563 million (US$72 million).

Officials gave no reason for the slowdown in profit growth, saying all principal sectors of the company performed well.

It did invest heavily during the year in such diverse things as Canada's Husky Oil Ltd., a regional satellite telecommunications venture, expansion of its container terminal and other local property development.

Hutchison also bought 5 percent of Britain's Cable & Wireless PLC - with which it later announced it will be working on the satellite project - but sold a similar stake in Pearson PLC, a major British publishing house with numerous other interests.

We stand today probably in a better position financially than ever before, Managing Director Simon Murray said Tuesday.

The balance sheet is extremely strong, (and with) commitments in the pipeline we will need that financial strength behind us.

Hutchison is one wing of the sprawling commercial empire of entrepreneur Li Ka-shing. Its flagship, Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd., is due to report its results today.

During the stock market bloodbath of last October, Mr. Li was instrumental in gaining official waivers of some rules to allow him to spend HK$2 billion (US$256 million) buying his own and other companies' shares in a bid to restore confidence.

Another of Mr. Li's companies, Cavendish International Holdings Ltd., previously reported profit for last year of HK$668 million (US$85.6 million).

That entity was spun off last July from Hong Kong Electric Co. Ltd., also controlled by Mr. Li, to take over all the utility's non-electricity interests such as property and the Hong Kong Hilton hotel.