Singapore-listed companies extended a trend of lower profitability among businesses that reported their first-quarter results over the past week, according to preliminary data compiled by The Business Times.

The 41 companies with December year-ends that reported first-quarter results over the past week posted total net profit attributable to shareholders of $1.4 billion, down 9.6 per cent from their year-ago period.

Companies with lower profits or deeper losses outnumbered those with higher profits or smaller losses 23 to 18.

For the 55 companies that have reported first-quarter results so far during the current reporting season, total earnings are lower by 20.6 per cent year-on-year. Companies posting better numbers barely nudge out those with poorer performances 28 to 27.

Lacklustre bottomline performances by large market capitalisation stocks have been the biggest drag on results so far.

Diversified auto distribution and mining group Jardine Cycle and Carriage, insurer Great Eastern Holdings and shipbuilder Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings were among the large-caps that posted weaker bottom lines.

Property developer CapitaLand, however, put up a strong 41.2 per cent jump in net earnings.

But the effect of one-offs and accounting quirks, as well as adjusted expectations, suggest that the headline numbers may not tell the full story.

Great Eastern, for example, took pains to explain that its net profit is affected by short-term mark-to-market fluctuations that should not affect a long-term portfolio that is hedged. Although Great Eastern's first-quarter net profit fell 21 per cent year-on-year, the company's insurance business had a 25 per cent increase in operating profit.

Yangzijiang's 29.5 per cent drop in net profit also did not faze DMG & Partners analysts Jason Saw and Lee Yue Jer, who maintained their "neutral" rating and target price of 95 cents for the counter, saying that the drop was in line with expectations.

Retail mall owner Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust also posted an 8.4 per cent profit decline, but nevertheless garnered positive notes from stock analysts.

OCBC Investment Research analyst Kevin Tan maintained his "buy" recommendation on Suntec Reit, noting resilience in the numbers amid ongoing renovation works at the main Suntec property.

"We are keeping our forecasts intact as the results have panned out according to our expectations," Mr Tan wrote in a note. "However, we now raise our fair value to S$2.16 from S$1.94 after lowering our equity risk premium to reflect Suntec Reit's continued strong execution and portfolio resilience."