Lane Crawford International's ill-fated venture into the Singapore retail market lost $40 million in the first six months of the year before the management decided to close the store down. The figure - which is more than twice the profits generated for the whole of last year - threatens to destroy any hope the retailer has of making a profit this year unless there is an unexpectedly strong rebound in the retail market. Director John Hung said it was too early to forecast whether it would lead to a full-year loss for the company. 'We will work hard in the meantime and we have time for that,' Mr Hung said. Lane Crawford, the retail arm of Wheelock and Co, said last Tuesday it had decided to close its loss-making Singapore operation after a drastic move to make it profitable by halving the size of the store failed. The loss officially put an end to Lane Crawford's regional ambitions which coincided with a downturn in the retail sector across Asia. 'The company's regional expansion will be stopped for a while,' Mr Hung said. He described the retail sector as 'fairly weak' and rejected statements by retail analysts who said the industry would be the last to pull itself out of the economic doldrums. Mr Hung said the sector might start to improve in the second half of next year. He also denied Lane Crawford was 'downsizing' in Hong Kong. The relocation of its Windsor House shop in Causeway Bay to Times Square simply reflected a gradual change of that area to a Japanese-dominated shopping location, he said. 'The type of merchandise being offered in that neighbourhood has changed,' he said. Speaking at the retailer's annual general meeting yesterday, Mr Hung said the losses generated by the Singapore operation would be booked in its interim results and added he did not expect the move to have any substantial negative impact on the company's performance. Lane Crawford shares closed yesterday at $13.50, down 10 cents, having soared after the announcement the store was to close. Wheelock shares also performed strongly after the announcement.