SOYA milk producer Vitasoy International Holdings has recorded an 8 per cent increase in first half profit but is bracing for a narrower margin in the second half. The company yesterday said profit attributable to shareholders was $68 million for the period to September 30. Turnover rose 14 per cent from the same period last year to $750 million. Earnings per share stood at 13.3 cents, up 8.1 per cent from 12.3 cents previously. Dividend was four cents a share, 8 per cent higher than the 3.7 cents paid a year ago. A company spokesman said a sluggish retail performance led to higher operating costs, especially in product promotion and marketing. A lower profit margin was expected for the first half of next year despite continued growth in sales. A 14 per cent rise in sales revenue was recorded in Hong Kong, which contributed about 70 per cent of group turnover. There was strong growth in sales of distilled water, juice and tea lines but soya milk products remained stagnant. North America, the company's second biggest market, reported a 9 per cent growth in sales to $128 million. Brand recognition from Hong Kong immigrants and strong demand for health food contributed to the growth, the company said. Sales of health food products, such as pasta and tofu, had robust growth in the United States while the traditional soya milk was popular in Canada, particularly among Hong Kong immigrants. The beverage manufacturer had earlier announced a five-year plan to expand in China under which the mainland would account for about 15 per cent of turnover by 2000. The company's 70 per cent owned Shenzhen plant had a 63 per cent increase in sales, partly because of the hot weather and the launch of a distribution network. Unlike Hong Kong, the relatively smaller Macau market put in a lacklustre performance. In Singapore, sales rose moderately amid fierce competition. The performances of other minor markets - Europe, Australia and New Zealand - were mixed. Turnover in Europe remained relatively small, although there was a 33 per cent increase in Britain. In Australia and New Zealand, sales were down about 5 per cent.