Wah Kwong holds profit as operating costs rise sharply
By K.K. CHADHA
WAH Kwong Shipping Holdings has reported a profit of $175.36 million for the six months to September 30, up slightly from the $174.71 million for the same period last year.
Turnover rose 24 per cent from $415.27 million to $516.39 million.
But operating costs registered a 51 per cent increase, from $218.54 million to $330.31 million, since the company now engages in short-term voyage business rather than long-term time charters.
Managing director George Chao Sze-kwong said the voyage business improved cash flow but outgoings also rose.
The directors have declared an interim dividend of 11.7 cents a share.
Mr Chao said that following the introduction of China's austerity programme in the middle of the year, the amount of steel products imported by the country had slowed and freight rates had dropped, although they were still higher than at this time last year.
The group has ordered four new vessels, two Panamax bulk carriers of 70,000 dwt from Japanese yards, and two handysize bulk carriers of 45,000 dwt from South Korean yards.
Three vessels were sold as part of the group's policy of retaining a competitive fleet.
Mr Chao said the group was looking to replace older vessels with new ones to reduce the average age of the fleet and so cut operating costs.
''It is our intention to maintain the fleet at approximately its present size,'' Mr Chao said.
The company's fleet consists of 30 ships, aggregating 1.8 million gross tonnes.
The group continued its diversification programme by forming a 50-50 joint venture to operate a food processing factory in Xiamen, Fujian province, with a daily production capacity of 350,000 bags and 150,000 cups of instant noodles.
Foundation work for the joint venture Wah Kwong Jewelry City commercial complex in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, is in progress and pre-sale of units will start early next year.
Foundation work is also in progress for the residential-cum-office Hua Tai Building in Shanghai.
Wah Kwong is investing US$45 million in the two building projects.
Mr Chao said ''friends'' had already booked about 30 per cent of the units in the Shanghai building, which would be sold for US$1,800 a sq metre in early 1995.