By Alice Woodhouse
HONG KONG Feb 28 Hutchison Whampoa Ltd reported a 20 percent rise in 2013 profits, in line with expectations, thanks to strong growth in its retail and European telecoms businesses.
The company is controlled by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, whose empire spans commercial properties in Hong Kong and China to telecommunications in Europe and energy in Canada. It said full-year net profit totaled HK$31.11 billion ($4 billion), up from a revised HK$25.9 billion a year earlier.
Hutchison was forecast to report a net profit of HK$29.92 billion for 2013, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
It reported 17 percent revenue growth in its health and beauty operations in China, the highest profit growth within the retail division. The Chinese health and beauty market is forecast to grow by around 40 percent to $186 billion by 2015.
"Recovering consumption economies in Europe and an overall stable outlook for the mainland and most countries in which we operate in Asia provide a positive outlook for the retail division's businesses, which should continue to expand rapidly in 2014," chairman Li said in a statement.
The initial public offering of the company's retail unit, A.S. Watson Co, will likely happen this year with Hong Kong as one of the venues, Li said at an earnings briefing.
Hutchison said last year it was conducting a strategic review of A.S. Watson, a retail division operating more than 11,500 stores across 31 countries that could drive the expansion of a health and beauty business in China.
The company, which proposed a dividend of HK$1.70 per share, up from HK$1.53 last year, also recorded strong growth in its European telecoms business with 15 percent growth in revenue in 3 Group Europe as it seeks to strengthen its position in Europe where it operates in six countries.
A one-off 95 million euro ($129.97 million) net gain from the sale of Austrian telecom brand Yesss boosted the group's profits, the company said.
Hutchison is awaiting the final decision by EU competition regulators on its $1 billion bid to take over Telefonica's O2 Ireland business, while a source told Reuters the company is willing to sell spectrum to secure the deal.
Husky Energy Inc, Canada's third-largest integrated oil producer, controlled by Li, posted a better-than-expected fourth quarter profit, helped by an 11 percent rise in U.S. crude prices.
Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd, also controlled by Li, reported 2013 net profit at HK$11.64 billion, up 23 percent thanks to increased profit from Hong Kong-listed Power Assets from growth in its businesses in the United Kingdom.