Gains from controversial asset disposals and the improvement in Asian economies helped upmarket retailer Dickson Concepts (International) return to the black in the six months to September. The group reported a $326.36 million attributable profit, having made a $290.77 million loss in the same period last year and a $327.62 million loss for the full year to March. After unveiling the results, Dickson - which has a $550 million cash pile - said it was contemplating a string of investments in areas including electronic commerce, brand-name acquisitions and the opening of new stores. The turnaround was driven by a $320.01 million gain from the disposal of lucrative non-Asian assets to chairman Dickson Poon in a deal that turned the company into a pure Asian retail play. On an operating level, the group recorded a $30.67 million profit against a $76.25 million loss previously. 'This is an extremely positive sign,' Mr Poon said. 'We believe that as economic conditions improve, top-line sales growth will return after a full margin recovery has been achieved.' Mr Poon attributed the turnaround to the improved performance of the group's operations in Hong Kong, its most important market. He said the group's department store arm Seibu had made 'a positive contribution' to profits. The first-half results consolidated about three months of contributions from former Europe-based units ST Dupont and Harvey Nichols. In June, Mr Poon bought the group's majority stakes in ST Dupont and Harvey Nichols, and its entire interest in Harvey Nichols' London real estate site and a United States leather-making arm for $1.52 billion. 'Bear in mind that ST Dupont was losing money. So the operating profit mostly stemmed from the growth in Asia operations,' Mr Poon said. A key reason behind the deal was the group's depressed share price, which Dickson believed failed to reflect the value of the group's Asian assets. The company also believed there was a risk it would continue to underperform if a recovery in Asian economies coincided with a European downturn. 'During the second quarter of the current financial year, economies in Asia began to show initial signs of recovery from the economic turmoil of the last two years,' he said. Interim turnover declined slightly to $1.62 billion from an adjusted $1.66 billion previously. Analysts were divided, with some estimating the group had really made an operating loss and some an operating profit. However, the majority believed Dickson would do better in the second half as Asia's economic and financial market recovery gained impetus. Mr Poon said Dickson planned to make use of its distribution network to conduct e-commerce in Asia through a wholly owned unit, Dickson Cyber Concepts. 'The study of e-commerce investments has reached an advanced stage and we will reveal the details by the end of this year,' Mr Poon said. Eight more outlets would be added, largely in Hong Kong and Taiwan, to bring the total of 200 by the end of March next year, he said. Dickson also planned a facelift of its Seibu store in Pacific Place.