HONG KONG — Department store operator Lifestyle International reported first-half profits that nearly tripled on gains in its investment portfolio but its core retail business saw turnover dip 2.5 percent year-over-year.
The owner of Sogo department stores in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui reported turnover of 2.22 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $283.81 million at current exchange, for the six months ended June 30, as profit surged 196.9 percent to 1.29 billion Hong Kong dollars excluding the disposal of its retail China business.
Much of that increase came from fair value gains on the firm’s financial asset portfolio worth 2.64 billion Hong Kong dollars, and on land it bought in East Kowloon to redevelop into a retail destination. Net investment income was 328 million Hong Kong dollars while the land reevaluation gain came to 351.5 million Hong Kong dollars.
“As you know, financial markets have been doing quite well this year so far,” chief financial officer Terry Poon said, and “gains on the properties were actually the surplus value on the Kai Tak land.”
The company spun off its mainland Chinese business of Jiuguang department stores and supermarkets a year ago, listing it on the Hong Kong stock exchange as Lifestyle China. The one-off gain from the disposal of its mainland China operations amounted to 420.8 million Hong Kong dollars.
Chairman Thomas Lau dismissed speculation that the company was looking to sell its mainland China business. “We have no plans to put Lifestyle China up for sale,” he said.
The department store sector in China has suffered from the influx of e-commerce and the many shopping malls that have popped up all over the country. It has prompted two Chinese department store chains — Intime and New World — to delist this year.
Lifestyle International’s main operations now revolve around the two department stores it runs in Hong Kong. It recently purchased a block of land in East Kowloon, near the city’s old airport site, which it is redeveloping into a 13 billion Hong Kong dollar shopping hub consisting of two towers — one will be its third Sogo department store while the other will be developed into a mall. Around 90 percent of the 1.1 million square feet will be dedicated to retail and the project is expected to be operational by 2022.
The Causeway Bay flagship store saw sales of 3.97 billion Hong Kong dollars in the first six months of the year, a decline of 1.5 percent from the year before. Management attributed it to the closure of its supermarket located in the basement of the department store and ongoing renovations which they said were near completion. It includes a face-lift of the facade of the store and the installation of what will be Hong Kong’s biggest LED screen, the size of seven tennis courts.
Its Tsim Sha Tsui store delivered a strong performance, growing sales by 17.7 percent year-over-year thanks in large part to strong cosmetics and skin-care sales.
With a more encouraging general consumer sector in Hong Kong — retail sales in the city finally ended a two year-long decline in March — management said they were feeling cautiously optimistic.
“Compared to last year, it looks better,” Lau said “but if it’s an exceptional U-shaped rebound then at present, we can’t see that.”