Building materials trader Arnhold Holdings filed about 20 writs last year to claim $8 million in unpaid goods as the regional financial turmoil hurt clients' finances, chairman Michael Green said yesterday. Despite the difficulties getting paid - the writs are the largest number in the company's 132-year history - net profit grew 25 per cent to $56.84 million in the year to December. All the writs involved small-sized clients suffering from high interest rates and the economic slowdown, according to recently appointed finance director David Kiang. 'Fortunately, half of the amount has been recouped already but the remainder is pending legal proceedings,' he said. Arnhold, which manufactures and distributes plumbing fixtures and insulation products in Hong Kong and China, had $289 million in accounts receivable as of December 31 last year, up from $254 million last June. 'We're trying to lower the level to $250 million and have put a rigid credit control on clients,' Mr Green said. The company squeezed credit to mainland clients last year, causing a lacklustre performance across the border where it only achieved a break-even result. Mainland sales fell 6 per cent to account for 17 per cent of the group's nearly $917 million total sales, raising inventories. 'We've solved 50 per cent of the problem and are trying to lower the inventory level further in the next few months,' Mr Green said. 'We hope we'll do better this year in China.' Directors proposed a 6.98 cents final dividend, taking the full-year payout to 10.38 cents, up 25 per cent from the previous year. Mr Green said the payout, representing 40 per cent of net profit, would not affect the company's cash flow. 'We did have negative cash flow last year, but things are improving now,' he said.