SEAFOOD supplier Pacific Andes International Holdings has reported a substantial rise in interim profits, and has announced plans to acquire a seafood processing plant in China, where most of its profits are derived. The company yesterday announced a 41 per cent year-on-year rise in attributable profits to $37.47 million for the six months to September. Fully diluted earnings per share stood at 9.7 cents, the company said, and an interim dividend of 3.1 cents would be paid to shareholders. Over the six-month period, turnover grew by a thin 3.87 per cent, rising to $441.1 million from $424.7 million. The profit growth was attributed to increased sales of higher-margin fish and processed seafood products to major markets including China, which accounted for 45 per cent of total turnover in the period. Sales of the more lucrative unprocessed whitefish increased to $294 million, compared with $126 million a year earlier. Sales of filleted whitefish increased to $126 million, against $87 million. Pacific Andes said it was expanding sales of its profitable processed seafood items by acquiring an existing seafood processing factory in Shandong province, China. It said the factory was currently turning out 40 tonnes of processed fish products per month, and had a maximum capacity of 70 tonnes. The cost of the purchase was estimated to be $40 million to $50 million, and the deal was expected to be finalised early next year. The new plant could boost the profit margin of the company's processed products by 10 per cent. The company said it was already supplying raw fish to four seafood processing plants in China under sub-contract agreements. Processed seafood, mainly fish fillets, would be bought back by the company for exports and domestic use. The company said it enjoyed a thin 10 per cent margin under this arrangement but that profits could be doubled with the new processing plant. Managing director Ng Joo Siang said the deal would give the company greater access to highly protected processed seafood retailing market on the mainland. 'We are more interested in the nationwide distribution outlets of the processing plant under negotiation,' Mr Ng said. 'The plant has more than 10 distribution outlets scattered in major cities such as Shanghai, Harbin and Tianjin.' Mr Ng said he believed this distribution network would help Pacific Andes to increase its share in the highly monopolised market. Overall sales in processed seafood accounted for 28.5 per cent of the company's overall turnover in the interim results, after making up just 20.5 per cent a year earlier. Eastern Europe and AfriYEARENDca accounted for about 20 per cent of overall sales, the company said, while the remaining 35 per cent went to North America and Western Europe.