* H1 net profit $111 mln Vs $96 mln year-ago
* Core operating profit below analysts’ estimates
* Cautious outlook as customers delay order decisions
By Donny Kwok
HONG KONG, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s Li & Fung Ltd , which grew to prominence making clothing and toys in Asia for Western retailers, said its first-half profit climbed 16 percent as a one-off accounting gain more than offset weak sales in overseas markets.
Li & Fung, which supplies companies like Kohl’s Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc, said January-June net profit grew to $111 million from $96 million a year earlier. But it sounded a cautious note on Thursday, saying customers are delaying order decisions until they get a better idea about the outlook for consumer confidence in the third quarter.
The firm said first-half earnings were boosted by a one-time $98 million gain related to the way it accounted for acquisitions. Li & Fung has traditionally relied on acquisitions to fuel growth, but the company has slowed the pace of mergers and acquisitions and spun off Global Brands Group Holding Ltd , a business that makes branded goods under licence.
Core operating profit fell 9 percent in the half to $227 million, slightly below an average forecast of $232 million from three analysts polled by Reuters.
“The recent Russia and Ukraine crisis has reduced foreign travel by Russian nationals, which is starting to impact the European retail markets favoured by Russian tourists,” chairman William Fung said in a statement.
“In China, which remains Asia’s most important economy, the government’s focus on fighting corruption and its pull-back on being an export-driven economy is impacting consumption in the short term,” Fung said, adding that the firm still sees opportunities over the long term.
The global exporter had said in May that factory facilities of some suppliers in Vietnam, which accounted for 7 percent of sourcing last year, had been damaged during anti-China protests earlier this year and that the disruption caused would mainly affect clients in the United States.
Li & Fung, with a market value of over $11 billion, listed Global Brands on the Hong Kong bourse in July without raising capital, as part of a three-year growth strategy.
Global Brands, which carries names including Cole Haan, Tommy Hilfiger, Disney, Calvin Klein and Juicy Couture, separately on Thursday reported its first-half net loss widened to $98 million from $49 million a year earlier as costs rose on investment in developing new licences.
Shares of Li & Fung have risen more than 26 percent so far this year, outperforming a 7.8 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
(1 US dollar = 7.7508 Hong Kong dollar)
Editing by Kenneth Maxwell