Despite falling freight rates last year, Orient Overseas (International) (OOIL) has reported an impressive 67.86 per cent rise in 1996 attributable profits of US$109.45 million, boosted by an exceptional $57.72 million gain from the sale of eight vessels. Turnover was up 12.6 per cent to $1.88 billion, from $1.67 billion. Earnings per share, fully diluted, amounted to 20.1 cents. The final dividend rose 25 per cent to 1.6 cents per share, for a total of 2.6 cents per share for the full year. Chairman and chief executive Tung Chee-chen, in a message read by OOIL chief financial officer Harry Wilkinson, said although the shipping industry was facing tough times, OOIL was able to weather the storm through controlled costs and economies of scale from its new 4,960 teu (20 ft equivalent unit) vessels. The company took delivery of three 4,960-teu vessels and one 2,300-teu, ice class vessel last year. Two more 4,960-teu vessels will be delivered this year. Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) Asia-Pacific manager Philip Chow Yiu-wah said this year and the next would be difficult years for the shipping industry. Mr Wilkinson said although the load factor on some routes was not bad, other routes were facing price deterioration of $100-$200 per teu and even higher. Looking at all factors, few ships would be built over the next two to three years due to over-capacity, with the possibility of some bankruptcies, he said. Mr Wilkinson said OOIL, consistent with its policy of diversification, had invested $25.1 million in property and food businesses in China last year, bringing its total investment in the mainland to $106.9 million. OOIL, with investments in containerised transport, container terminal operations, commercial property and business interests in China, wholly owns OOCL.