Kader Holdings has operated under the cloud of a deadly blaze in one of its factories since 1993 and faced stiff competition in the field of toy-making. Now, the company has found a new lease on business, helped by the Star Wars marketing blitz. This week, the company announced a net profit of $13.92 million for last year, compared with a loss of $21.91 million in 1997. Executive director William Li said a non-performing joint venture had previously held back profits. He said the company could announce an interim cash dividend for shareholders in September on the return to profit and increased turnover from a deal to make toys to be merchandised alongside the new Star Wars movie. 'We could expect an interim dividend in the next results . . . if things keep improving, then the directors will concede they can do this,' Mr Li said. The company's shares recently surged to year highs on the back of news it was making electronic toys for the Star Wars film. They have dropped in the past week and closed down 5.26 per cent yesterday at 36 cents. Mr Li said the last time Kader reported a profit was in 1996 and before that, in 1993. Ironically, 1993 was the year that a fire swept through the company's 40 per cent-owned factory in Thailand, killing 188 people, one of the century's worst factory fires. At the time, a joint venture between Kader and a group of individuals - Kader Industrial Thailand - and other toy-making companies including United States groups, were widely criticised for not having sufficient safety precautions in the factory. In 1994, Kader chairman Dennis Ting Hok-shou, as chairman of the Hong Kong Toy Council, rejected a proposal from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions to put special labels on toys made in safety conscious factories. In 1994, Mr Ting intimated the responsibility for the fire did not lie with his company and refused to release a investigative report he had commissioned on the tragedy. 'Do you want to talk about the Thai Government's corruption?,' he said at the time. 'In that country, life is cheap. You can buy a life for a few hundred US dollars.' Several large US groups - Mattel, Hasbro and Toys 'R' Us - were also criticised by the union group as being accountable as they had close ties to the companies which ran the factories. Thai police arrested two officials from Kader Industrial in connection with the fire, one for allegedly starting the blaze by not putting out his cigarette. Mr Li said Kader's one million square feet of factories in Guangdong were obligated to have safety measures to produce its goods. The US companies required safety standards and the company would not secure deals such as the Star Wars arrangement if it did not comply with those standards, he said. Kader no longer has operations in Thailand. 'We are confident that our factories will be a lot safer than the Thailand factories,' Mr Li said. 'Most of our customers understand that the Thailand factory was managed by a second group of people not related to Kader [in Hong Kong].' Mr Li said the Asian financial crisis had seen some smaller competitors flounder, but the company was confident it would perform well. 'I see Kader getting stronger and stronger,' Mr Li said. 'Even if we didn't have Star Wars, we're still optimistic of our performance.' Kader is making robot characters for Star Wars. The company expects more orders for the characters in the second half of this year in the build-up to Christmas. Mr Li would not reveal the financial benefits of the Star Wars arrangement with a Hasbro subsidiary, but said it was presently the company's biggest deal.