August 11, 2016 / 10:02 AM / in a year

UPDATE 1-CK Hutchison's H1 profit meets estimates, expects stable returns in Europe

* Net HK$14.92 bln vs HK$14.46 bln year earlier

* Says Brexit brings challenges for UK, Europe over next few years

* “Cautiously optimistic” over group’s prospects -chairman (Adds company, analyst comments, shares, context)

HONG KONG, Aug 11 (Reuters) - CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd , controlled by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, on Thursday said first-half net profit rose 3 percent as strength in infrastructure, telecoms and retail offset reduced profitability at unit Husky Energy Inc.

January-June profit reached HK$14.92 billion ($1.92 billion), in line with the HK$14.7 billion average of four estimates from analysts polled by Reuters.

Revenue fell 8 percent to HK$180.51 billion.

The conglomerate said it faced challenges such as low oil and gas prices, adverse foreign currency movement and general global market uncertainty and volatility.

“I am cautiously optimistic in the group’s future prospects,” Chairman Li said in a statement.

CK Hutchison has significant investments in Britain and the European Union (EU). In June, after Britain voted to leave the EU, the conglomerate said it was confident its British business would continue to thrive.

“The withdrawal of the U.K. from the European Union will bring with it considerable challenge both for the U.K. and for Europe for at least the next two to three years,” Li said in the statement on Thursday.

“The group’s sizable investments in the U.K. and euro zone are predominately resilient operations relating to utilities and daily necessities with solid fundamentals,” Li said, adding those investments will continue to generate stable returns.

Analysts have been watching for any impact of the so-called Brexit vote on the company and its growth strategies, as well as for any merger and acquisition activity.

“We believe the group will continue to adopt prudent financial management to match all additional investments in Europe or the U.K. with local currency debt,” J.P. Morgan wrote in a research note ahead of the earnings report.

“Despite the short-term uncertain economic outlook after the Brexit vote, we do not think the company will shy away from further investments there at reasonable valuations,” the bank said.

Last month, CK Hutchison-owned Husky Energy booked a second-quarter loss that was narrower than analysts had expected, while sister company Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd said first-half profit rose 5 percent.

Shares of CK Hutchison closed down 0.8 percent ahead of the earnings report, versus a 0.4 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng share index.

$1 = 7.7559 Hong Kong dollars Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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