THE share price of clock manufacturer Artfield Group fell by one per cent from its issue price to close at 99 cents at its debut yesterday. The counter was relatively active as trading in most of the second and third-liners remained thin. Turnover was $8 million with 7.9 million shares traded across the board. Chairman Ip Yiu-tung said the timing was unfortunate for the new issue because market sentiment remained cautious. 'But we had no other choice,' he said. 'If we deferred the plan, it meant we might have to wait for another one or 11/2 years for a listing.' The company issued 56.6 million new shares at $1 per share, which were 1.1 times over-subscribed. Mr Ip expected the profit margin for the company this year to be squeezed by a surge in prices of raw materials worldwide. He said: 'I think the profit growth will be stable, but the growth in sales will be larger.' The net profit margin would be eroded because prices of raw materials were expected to soar by 20 per cent. Demand for industrial materials had been fuelled by an economic revival worldwide. The company would raise the prices of some products to compensate for the rising cost. 'I think our competitors are worse off than us as we have a larger profit margin,' he said. 'It is easier for us to absorb the rise in production costs.' The group is also planning to diversify its product base. The building of a wood factory in Shanghai was an important step in this direction. It had already received orders from a major Japanese client. Meanwhile, the joint venture in Ningbo would move out of the red and was expected to bring $2 million to $3 million in profit to the group this year, he said.