Casual-wear chain Giordano International is planning an ambitious Asia-Pacific expansion with a war chest of more than $700 million. Takeovers and opening stores in Hong Kong, Japan and Australia, topped the agenda, said executive director Terry Ng Sze-yuen. Last week, Giordano withdrew from a three-pronged takeover battle for cash-strapped retailer Theme International Holdings. 'We're sniffing around for value for money deals, like Theme,' Mr Ng said, after opening an 8,000-square foot store in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday. The expansion comes at a time when Southeast Asia's consumer markets are showing signs of improvement. However, Mr Ng said Hong Kong was recovering more slowly than markets such as South Korea, shown by the group's strong turnover outside Hong Kong. 'We're still having a hard time in Hong Kong,' he said. To add 'instant presence' in the company's 'emerging markets' such as Australia, Japan and Europe, Giordano was 'seriously' contemplating several takeovers of existing fashion chains, he said. 'A number of foreign companies have knocked on our door and asked if we were interested in buying them out or forming co-operations,' he said. 'Several proposals including one in Australia are under consideration.' Mr Ng said funding potential acquisitions would be no problem with cash of more than $700 million. In Hong Kong, the company is focusing on a new mass market fashion line called Blue Star similar to Gap's Old Navy, instead of looking for acquisitions. 'So far, we haven't found any target after Theme,' he said. He said Theme and its bank creditors' failure to meet Giordano's deadline for a takeover agreement was a major reason for the aborted bid. The withdrawal of Giordano and fashion retailer YGM Trading left garment group High Fashion International the only suitor for Theme. Mr Ng said Giordano planned 20 more Blue Star outlets to add to the seven open now. Launched four months ago, Blue Star's performance met management's expectations, he said. 'There is still some room in the mass market as our main line Giordano has been upgraded through times,' he said. Giordano would also open five more Giordano Ladies outlets locally, and in Taiwan and the Middle East.