Hutchison Whampoa half-year profit up by 23%

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa reported Thursday a half-year net profit increase of 23 percent, despite a lengthy strike in March at its Hong Kong port operation.

Net profit stood at HK$12.40 billion ($1.60 billion) for the first six months of 2013, up 23 percent on year, fuelled by growth in areas including its infrastructure and telecommunications divisions.

Revenue from its ports services grew six percent to HK$16.89 billion compared to the same period last year.

Li, who is Asia's richest man, was criticised in March for imposing harsh conditions on dock workers in its port operations in the city which led to a 40-day strike by hundreds of workers.

The conglomerate's revenue, spanning ports to telecoms and financial services, amounted to HK$199.08 billion, edging up two percent from HK$194.99 billion.

"In the first half, economic uncertainty continued to affect several markets and geographies in which the Group operates," Li Ka-shing said in a statement filed to the city's bourse website.

"Despite these and other externalities, such as government policies and restrictions, our core businesses, which are spread over 52 countries continued to demonstrate resilience and achieved sustainable recurring profit growth," he said.

Meanwhile, blue-chip developer Cheung Kong Holdings, Li's property flagship, said in a separate filing that its net profit for the first six months amounted to HK$13.41 billion, down by 13 percent from HK$15.40 billion in the same period last year.

The government has introduced measures to rein in Hong Kong's red-hot property prices through extra stamp duties on some purchases as well as taxing overseas buyers.

Critics allege collusion between big developers and the government, which controls land sales, to push up home prices.

The 85-year-old tycoon did not hold the regular press conference which usually follows the release of the groups' financial results. No reason was given.

Li started out in business as a plastic flower-maker but now commands a vast empire through Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa, with global assets in property, telecoms, utilities, ports and retail.

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