Hutchison Whampoa today said it expects its 3G operations in Europe and Australia to turn a profit before interest and taxes during the second half of this year and admitted that its business in Italy has received interest from potential buyers. Hutchison’s 3 Group – which comprises its 3G mobile operations in Italy, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Denmark and Austria – posted a loss before interest and tax of HK$17.94 billion (US$2.3 billion) last year, narrower than its loss before interest and tax of HK$20.0 billion (US$2.6 billion) in 2006. The group now has over 17.6 million 3G subscribers worldwide, up from 15.9 million in August.
A move to profitability would follow four years, and total losses of US$15.6 billion, after the group first launched 3G services. “The 3G business is no longer a burden to us,” Hutchison Whampoa Chairman Li Ka-shing told reporters at a briefing in Hong Kong. “It may become our most profitable and fastest-growing business.” Meanwhile Forbes reports the Chairman revealed that the Italian operation has attracted ‘many’ potential buyers, but declined to identify names.