SINGAPORE (May 17): The board of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPH Trust), led by chairman Canning Fok, had to face frustrated shareholders at its annual general meeting, which this year was held on the morning of April 26.

One shareholder, of example, asked whether HPH Trust would be privatised so he could be “put out of his misery”.

Long-time unitholders of HPH Trust will be familiar with the poor share price performance.

HPH Trust, backed by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s flagship entity Hutchison Whampoa, was listed with much hype in March 2011 at US$1.01.

With nearly US$6 billion raised, HPH Trust was one of the largest Singapore Exchange IPOs.

HPH Trust, despite having the backing of other institutional shareholders such as Singapore’s Temasek Holdings-owned port operator PSA International, never went above the IPO price.

Throughout the years, there was a steady stream of earnings letdowns caused by factors ranging from workers’ strikes to unfavourable new business policies in either China or Hong Kong. Finance costs also remained a constant bugbear.

The current US-China trade war is is just the latest blow.

With its structure as a business trust, HPH Trust’s draw for investors is its distribution.

Again, that has not met expectations. The highest payout was 51.24 HK cents in FY2012.

In line with lower earnings, HPH Trust will be paying a distribution per unit of just 17 HK cents for FY2018, down from 20.6 HK cents in FY2017.

So what did the trustee-managers have to say about the under-performance?

And what can HPH Trust unitholders look forward to?

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