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Hutchison cashes in $978 million operating profit

Hutchison cashes in $978 million operating profit

   Hutchison Ports, the highly profitable global terminal arm of Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, increased its earnings before interest and tax 15 percent in 2003, to HK$7.6 billion ($978 million), as throughput volumes at its many terminals climbed 16 percent to 41.5 million TEUs.

   Li Ka-shing, chairman of Hutchison Whampoa and one of Asia’s richest men, described the 15-percent rise in earnings of the port business division as “healthy.”

   “All of the group’s operating business divisions reported earnings before interest and tax ahead of last year, except the start-up of 3G (telecommunications) operations,” he said. Hutchison Whampoa reported a net group profit of HK$14.4 billion ($1.9 billion) for 2003, virtually unchanged from the previous year.

   Revenue at Hutchison Ports, the world’s largest container terminal operator, increased 12 percent last year to HK$23.1 billion ($3 billion).

   The port division of Hutchison Whampoa contributed 16 percent of the total revenue of the port, telecommunications, retail and manufacturing and financial conglomerate, and 25 percent of its earnings before interest and tax last year.

   Commenting on its international port activities, the group said its Hong Kong and Yantian deepwater port operations reported combined throughput growth of 8 percent and earnings growth of 13 percent last year.

   The combined operations in Shanghai, Waigaoqiao, Ningbo, Shantou, Xiamen and other mainland Chinese ports reported a growth of 53 percent in both throughput and earnings, after the acquisition of Shanghai Pudong International Container Terminals at Waigaoqiao in March 2003.

   Operations in the Americas and the Caribbean, where Hutchison operates Bahamas, Panamanian and Mexican terminals, increased their combined throughput 16 percent and their earnings 17 percent.

   European operations reported combined throughput “in line with last year,” while earnings increased 11 percent mainly due to the improved results of Europe Container Terminals in Rotterdam.

   Operations in other Asian countries, the Middle East and Africa reported combined throughput 13 percent ahead of last year and earnings increased 15 percent.

   The ports division “continues to grow by improving operating efficiency, maximizing utilization of its existing facilities and, on a selective basis, pursuing growth opportunities through strategic acquisitions,” the Hong Kong parent group said.

   In July, the first berth at Container Terminal 9 in Kwai Chung, Hong Kong, started operation. Development of its second berth will be completed in late 2004 and commence operation in early 2005.

   Also in July, the group acquired a 51-percent interest in a joint venture company that holds a concession to operate in the Port of Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

   In the fourth quarter of 2003, the construction of two new berths at phase 3 of Yantian port was completed. An additional two berths are planned to be completed at Yantian in late 2004, the group said.

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