Successful inventory management and logistics control helped steel-trader Van Shung Chong to a 60 per cent surge in interim profit for the six months to September. The company reported attributable profit of $50.2 million for the period despite an 11 per cent decline in turnover to $876 million. It attributed the lower turnover to a 20 per cent drop in average steel prices. Financial controller Johnson Ho Sai-wah said profits were further bolstered by a rebound in the firm's coil business, which recorded 190 per cent growth in gross profit from the same period last year. Chairman Andrew Yao Cho-fai said average steel prices had recovered by about 5 per cent since September and the trend would probably continue next year. The company, which accounts for about two-thirds of the local steel market, expects an increase in demand for its steel next year due to the MTRC West Rail projects and the Government's plan to build 85,000 public housing units. Mr Yao said the company would be the exclusive supplier of steel for four of the nine planned West Rail stations. The firm would continue to expand its stakes in the cutting and bending business, which had a gross profit margin of 20 per cent compared with an overall average gross margin of about 15 per cent, he said. The company plans to invest up to $30 million in its cutting and bending operations next year, which will see annual capacity double to more than 144,000 tonnes. Mr Yao said the company had spent 'several million US dollars' on steel exchange Web site iSteelAsia.com and planned to invest several million more this year. 'This site has enormous potential, it's the first in Asia,' Mr Yao said. 'We feel that e-commerce is definitely the way forward for the industry.' The Web site - jointly developed with 19 other international steel traders - has received applications from more than 350 companies since coming on-line two months ago, of which 30 have so far been approved to trade through the site. The Chinese language version is scheduled to come on-line next month and the site's logistics centre would be set up in March.