Dairy Farm International Holdings' operating profit from continuing activities rose 6 per cent in the first half to US$47 million, despite the economic upheaval that has rocked its chief Asian markets. The operating figure provides a truer reflection of performance at the Jardine group's retailing arm, given that attributable profit - up by a year-on-year 118 per cent to US$86.8 million - was buoyed by a net $38 million gain from the sale of European operations. Dairy Farm, which owns Wellcome, Mannings and Maxims, described the results as 'good', and chairman Simon Keswick said the company was 'well-placed to take advantage of new investment opportunities in the more difficult economic conditions in Asia-Pacific'. Sales in the period fell 17 per cent from a year earlier to $2.889 billion, while earnings per share from continuing activities rose to 2.57 cents from 2.51 cents. The company declared an unchanged interim dividend of 1.65 cents a share, but said it would not offer a scrip dividend alternative. Dairy Farm said the $38 million gain was the result of the disposal of Simago in Spain and its shares in British-based Somerfield 'after the reversal of $72 million translation differences previously booked to reserves'. It said some of this profit was 'partly offset by exchange rate movements', especially in Australia and New Zealand. The Australian operating contri bution showed the biggest improvement, increasing to $13 million from $5 million in the same period last year. In Hong Kong, all retail businesses improved in the first half, but the company said: 'Sims Trading was affected by the more difficult economic conditions in the wholesale sector.'