HONG KONG (AP) -- Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's sprawling global conglomerate, Hutchison Whampoa, said Thursday its first-half profit rose nearly a quarter, led by gains at its infrastructure and telecom divisions.
The tycoon, Asia's richest person, said in a statement that profits rose even though "economic uncertainty continued to affect several markets and geographies." He said that "whilst uncertainty will remain a challenge for the second half of 2013, major economies are showing signs of stabilization and gradual recovery."
The 85-year-old Li's fortune is estimated at $31 billion by Forbes, which also says he's the eighth richest person in the world. Hutchison, the flagship company in Li's empire, employs a quarter million people in 52 countries in businesses that also include ports, retailing and energy.
The company said net profit for January-June rose 23 percent from a year earlier to 12.4 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.6 billion), or HK$2.91 a share.
After stripping out one-time gains, recurring profit was up 24 percent to HK$12 billion. Revenue rose 2 percent to HK$199 billion.
The results help show why Li is nicknamed "Superman" by Hong Kongers for his moneymaking abilities. Residents of the freewheeling hub of Asian capitalism have long admired his skill in generating a huge fortune, though lately many have also come to resent him for his dominance of the economy amid a growing wealth gap.
In a break with tradition, Li, the company's chairman, and his son Victor, the deputy chairman, did not hold a press conference to discuss the results. The company did not give a reason.
Profit at Hutchison's infrastructure business rose 10 percent amid an expansion in international markets. Recent acquisitions include a utility company in Britain and a Dutch waste business.
Earnings at the company's European mobile phone business, 3 Group, rose by more than a third, aided by the purchase of mobile operator Orange Austria.
Income also rose at Husky Energy, the company's Canadian oil company, and its retail division, which owns 10,800 shops in 30 countries through chains including Britain's Superdrug and France's Marionnaud.
Earnings at the ports business slipped, partly because of a 40-day strike at the company's container ship berths in Hong Kong. Hutchison's port business also runs shipping terminals in mainland China, at the Panama Canal and two dozen other countries on nearly every continent.
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