Interest expenses and a lack of exceptional gains pulled Jardine International Motor Holdings' net profit down 36.7 per cent for the six months to June 30 compared with the first half of last year. The motor-trading arm of the Jardine Matheson group posted first-half profits of US$28 million against $44.3 million last year. However, the company's core business appears to have held up well to the region's economic turmoil with operating profit rising 14.6 per cent to $45.3 million. About 55 per cent of the company's trading profits (before interest expenses) came from Asia, especially Hong Kong - down from 64 per cent last year. Zung Fu, Jardine Motors' luxury-car arm, has the exclusive franchise for Mercedes-Benz in Hong Kong. ABN Amro analyst Jeremy Sutch said the figures were in line with his expectations and had been quite resilient in Asia, mainly because of an order backlog from last year. Helped by last year's shortfall, Zung Fu performed well in the first half, the company said. It warned, however, that in the full year it would be affected by reduced car demand in Hong Kong. 'The full-year performance will, therefore, be below that of 1997,' the company said. Another factor helping maintain profits was post-sales service. Mr Sutch said: 'What people don't realise is that after-sales service is a substantial part of turnover. People are still servicing their cars, although possibly at a slightly lower rate.' In Hong Kong, after-sales service typically amounted to half of profits. On the mainland, the company's Southern Star joint venture produced higher profit but towards the end of the six-month period margins and deliveries fell. Group turnover climbed nearly 70 per cent, boosted by the acquisition of Appleyard and BPW businesses in Britain late last year. The firm also recorded improved performance in France and strong sales in the United States. Finance director Sam Houston said Britain accounted for 34 per cent of trading profit, France 5 per cent and others (including the United States) 6 per cent. In all, the group sold 69,200 new and used vehicles in the first half of the year. The interim dividend was maintained at last year's level of 1.2 US cents per share.