March 21, 2019 / 11:04 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-CK Hutchison says global markets still welcome Chinese deals

HONG KONG, March 21 (Reuters) - CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd , the ports-to-telecoms arm of retired billionaire Li Ka-shing, said it does not feel Chinese companies are being barred from M&A opportunities in the global markets, even though its bid in Australia was blocked.

In November, CK Group terminated an $9.5 billion agreement to acquire Australia’s biggest gas pipeline company APA Group after Australia blocked the takeover bid, citing national interest.

“We’re an international company; Hong Kong is our root, but in other global markets we don’t see any rejection,” group chairman Victor Li told an earnings conference.

“We just successfully made an acquisition in Italy; they welcomed us,” he added. “No, it’s not true, how can the whole world not like to do business with Chinese?”

CK Hutchison posted an 11 percent rise in 2018 profit on Thursday to HK$39 billion ($4.97 billion), its highest since 2015, in line with analyst forecasts.

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, retired in May as chairman of CK Hutchison and real estate arm CK Asset, passing the mantle to his eldest son, who was named successor several years ago.

Chairing his first earnings conference as chairman, Victor Li said the companies will not change their strategies under his leadership.

“I’m still doing the job of a managing director even though I have an additional title now. Mr. Li (Ka-shing) is still an adviser (in the group) advising us.”

CK Hutchison said it has no plan to sell its stake in beauty and health retailer A.S. Watson or float its shares, adding it is a very profitable business, but it would support Temasek Holdings’ plans to offload a part of its stake.

Singapore state investor Temasek, which invested about $5.7 billion in the company in 2014, is in talks to sell a small portion of its 24.9 percent stake in A.S. Watson, a source said in January.

“Temasek and we have a very good relationship; we’re supportive in their intention to sell a part of its stake, we will help them to do due diligence,” said group co-managing director Canning Fok.

Temasek has previously declined to comment on any A.S. Watson stake sale.

Sister company CK Asset, a major property developer in Hong Kong, reported on Thursday a forecast-beating 33.2 percent rise in 2018 net profit to HK$40.12 billion.

Li declined to give his outlook on the property market, saying there are too many external uncertainties that could offset housing demand in Hong Kong. (Reporting by Clare Jim and Donny Kwok; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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