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Hutchison Whampoa net up 53%, sees 3G improvements

28 марта 2008

Ports-to-telecommunications conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. said Thursday its 2007 net profit rose 53% on a large one-off gain from the sale of telecommunications assets in India and narrower losses in its third-generation mobile business.

Hutchison Chairman Li Ka-shing said in a statement he is aiming for the company's 3G operations to post a profit before interest and tax next year. Li told a news conference that 3G could eventually become the company's most profitable operation.

Li said Hutchison is in preliminary talks with many parties on the sale of its Italian 3G mobile business 3 Italia, though he didn't identify them.

"If our 3G business becomes profitable, we will definitely increase our dividend payments," said Li, the billionaire who is
Hong Kong's richest man.

Hutchison said its net profit for the 12 months ended Dec. 31 was HK$30.60 billion, up from HK$20.03 billion a year earlier. The result was below the average HK$32.81 billion forecast of 12 analysts polled earlier by Thomson Financial.

Revenue rose 15% to HK$308.8 billion from HK$267.7 billion.
Despite the lower-than-expected profit, Hutchison shares rose 0.9% Thursday in Hong Kong to close at HK$73.70.

Hutchison's earnings for years have been dragged down by its unprofitable 3G operations.

As part of efforts to trim losses in the 3G segment, the company's 59.33%-owned unit, Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd., sold a 67% stake in India-based Hutchison Essar Ltd. to Vodafone Group PLC in May. Hutchison said it recorded a net gain of HK$35.82 billion from the sale.

Hutchison also signed a 3G network-sharing partnership with Deutsche Telekom AG unit
T-Mobile U.K. last year to reduce operating costs.

Hutchison's 3 Group, which comprises its 3G mobile operations in
Italy, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Denmark and Austria, posted a loss before interest and tax of HK$17.94 billion last year, narrower than its loss before interest and tax of HK$20.0 billion in 2006.

The company said 3 Group posted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization and after all customer acquisitions and retention costs for full-year 2007 of HK$1.20 billion.
The unit swung from a loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization after all customer acquisition and retention costs of HK$7.49 billion in 2006.

Hutchison said it now has over 17.6 million 3G subscribers worldwide, up from 15.9 million in August.

Hutchison's non-3G businesses recorded an operating profit of HK$55.57 billion in 2007, up 27% from HK$43.79 billion, boosted by strong growth of retail, ports and energy businesses.

Li said he remains bullish in his outlook for 2008.

"Even if there is a slowdown in the
U.S. economy, I remain confident on all our business segments this year, because our businesses are globally diversified," he said.

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