SINGAPORE (May 15): Uni-Asia Group, the alternative investment company and provider of management services to ships and properties, reports a 9% increase in earnings to US$3.5 million ($4.8 million) for the 1Q19 ended March, from US$3.2 million a year ago.

Earnings per share (EPS) rose to 7.41 US cents for 1Q19, from 6.77 US cents for 1Q18.

Total income for the group increased by 26% to US$32.2 million in 1Q19, from US$25.6 million in 1Q18.

The growth was primarily attributable to the increase in hotel income and better investment returns.

Hotel income rose 45% to US$18.6 million during the quarter, mainly due to more rooms under operations in 1Q19.

The group registered a gain in investment returns of US$1.6 million in 1Q19, compared to a loss of US$0.9 million a year ago.

Contributions from realised gain of ship and property investments, as well as fair valuation gain of property, investments contributed to positive investment returns for 1Q19.

Meanwhile, charter income fell 11% to US$9.1 million in 1Q19, on the back lower contribution from fewer wholly-owned/majority-owned ships and overall weakness in the dry bulk market during the quarter.

Operating profit jumped 57% to US$8.1 million in 1Q19, from US$5.2 million in 1Q18.

As at end March, cash and cash equivalents stood at US$47.3 million.

Moving forward, the group says it is cautiously optimistic that the dry bulk market will pick up seasonally from the current lows, even as the outlook for the dry bulk market remains mixed.

Meanwhile, it adds that it will continue to explore opportunities in the Hong Kong property market and various property asset management opportunities in Japan to expand new income source.

Uni-Asia today also announced a 1 for 2 bonus shares issue, which will see its total number of shares increase from 52.4 million to 78.6 million.

The group says this is aimed at rewarding shareholders and to enhance trading liquidity for Uni-Asia shares.

Shares in Uni-Asia closed flat at a multi-year low of $1.03 on Wednesday.

Its share price has fallen by more than 11% this month, after Uni-Asia on May 3 announced it is increasing its shareholding in subsidiary Hope Bulkship S.A. to 100%.