[HONG KONG] Li Ka-shing's two main companies reported their highest annual profits in 15 years after booking gains from the listing of an electric utility unit and rising home sales in Hong Kong.
At Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd, which operates the bulk of Li's property business, net income climbed 53 per cent last year to HK$53.9 billion (US$7 billion), the company said Thursday in a statement. Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, which operates industries ranging from telecommunications to infrastructure, reported profit doubled to HK$67.2 billion.
The results represent the final earnings before Li merges the two companies by late June as part of a US$29 billion reorganization of a business empire spanning more than 50 countries. The 86-year-old tycoon, known in Hong Kong as "Superman," isn't done deal making as Hutchison is in talks to buy British wireless carrier O2 for as much as 10.25 billion pounds (US$16 billion) and is discussing adding phone assets in Italy.
"With this new structure, they are going to be more aggressive in pursuing assets in Europe, particularly in the telecom sector," Jackson Wong, associate director at United Simsen Securities in Hong Kong ahead of the earnings release.
The reorganization, codenamed "Project Diamond" before being announced in January, comes as Mr Li prepares to hand over the reins to his 50-year-old son Victor. Though subject to approval from Hutchison shareholders, the proposal aims to lump all of Mr Li's businesses into a new company called CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd and then separate the real-estate assets into a newly created entity called Cheung Kong Property Holdings Ltd, which will be the second-largest landlord in Hong Kong.
Cheung Kong shares rose 0.7 per cent to close at HK$153 in Hong Kong before reporting earnings, while Hutchison dropped 0.1 per cent to HK$105.50. The Hang Seng Index advanced 0.5 per cent.