* H1 net underlying profit rises 13 pct to $1.7 billion
* Including exceptionals, H1 profit surges 129 pct
* Retail revenue up 9 pct; property revenue falls 33 pct
By Donny Kwok
HONG KONG, July 31 (Reuters) - Hutchison Whampoa Ltd , a retail-to-telecoms group owned by Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing, posted a 13 percent rise in first-half underlying profit, beating analyst estimates, thanks to its growing European telecom and retail businesses.
Excluding exceptional items and property valuations, underlying profit totalled HK$13.52 billion ($1.74 billion) in January-June compared with HK$12.01 billion a year earlier, Hutchison said on Thursday.
That beat expectations for an underlying profit of HK$13 billion, according to the average forecast of five analysts polled by Reuters.
Including profits from the disposal of investments and property revaluation, profit attributable to shareholders jumped 129 percent year-on-year to HK$28.44 billion, from HK$12.398 billion a year earlier.
“Generally improving trends first noted in the second half of 2013 continued into 2014, leading to a constructive outlook for the group’s businesses overall for the second half of 2014,” Chairman Li, whose empire spans commercial properties in Hong Kong and China to telecommunications in Europe and energy in Canada, said in a statement.
Li also said economic and political uncertainty will remain a challenge for the remainder of 2014 but the group will continue to seek sustainable recurring earnings growth and maintain a strong financial and liquidity profile.
“I expect that the group will continue to meet these objectives in the second half of 2014. I continue to have confidence in the group’s prospects,” Li added.
Hutchison recorded good growth in its European telecoms business, with a 3 percent gain in revenue and 23 percent increase in earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) in 3 Group Europe.
Hutchison saw revenue from its property and hotel division fall 33 percent in the first half to HK$7.46 billion as contributions from mainland projects declined, in line with a sector slowdown. That compared with 21 percent growth a year earlier.
Hutchison reported 9 percent revenue growth in its retail division in the first half. The division’s health and beauty operations in China grew 14 percent.
The conglomerate controls health and beauty retailer A.S. Watson, which operates more than 11,500 stores across 31 countries.
Revenue from ports and related businesses grew 2 percent.
Hutchison was also helped by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd (CKI), also controlled by Li. CKI reported half-year net profit of HK$24.12 billion. That was up 367 percent from a year earlier, thanks to increased profit contribution from Hong Kong-listed Power Assets Holdings Ltd .
The utility recorded a hefty gain from the sale of a stake in the city’s power supplier Hongkong Electric.
Husky Energy Inc, controlled by Li, also posted a 4 percent increase in second-quarter earnings, Canada’s third-largest integrated oil producer said earlier this month. ($1 = 7.7496 Hong Kong Dollars) (Additional reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Ryan Woo)