Hong Kong billionaire's flagships to net $2.7bn

Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong, billionaire Li Ka-shing's Hong Kong flagships, are to pocket $2.7bn after a telecoms unit yesterday announced a hefty special dividend due to 'the lack of suitable investment opportunities'.

Hutchison Telecommunications International (HTIL), which sold its Indian arm to Vodafone for $10.9bn in 2007, said it would pay shareholders a cash dividend of HK$33.7bn ($4.35bn), or HK$7 per share, next month.

The company, which operates 2G and 3G businesses in Asian emerging markets, has been sitting on an $11.1 billion windfall since it sold its stake in India's Hutchison Essar to Vodafone last year.

On Wednesday announced a cash dividend of HK$7 per share or $13.55 per ADS, totalling HK$33.7 billion ($4.35 billion).

"In the last 18 months no acquisition opportunity has met our investment criteria," said CEO Dennis Lui.

HTIL now has 11.2 million customers, up from 8.6 million a year ago, thanks primarily to growth in Indonesia.

The launch of iPhone in Hong Kong had boosted data revenues in that market, with more than 40% of iPhone users subscribing to the highest monthly plan, HTIL said.