Giordano International's net profit in the first half to June 30 increased 31 per cent from a year earlier to HK$173.3 million. The clothing retailer's turnover jumped 16 per cent from the previous year to HK$1.66 billion. In the half, the company's mainland operations outperformed those in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Giordano's mainland turnover rose 38 per cent from a year earlier to HK$319.3 million. In both Hong Kong and Taiwan, revenue climbed 18 per cent. All three markets accounted for more than 80 per cent of the company's total turnover. Earnings per share amounted to 24.5 HK cents in the half, and the company declared an interim dividend of 8.5 HK cents. The sanguine half-year results followed surging earnings last year. In 1999, Giordano's net profit rocketed nearly fivefold from a year earlier to HK$360.01 million. At the end of June, Giordano had more than HK$700 million cash in hand. Chairman Peter Lau Kwok-kuen said in the coming year major expansion would be focused on the mainland. 'The growth of Hong Kong's retailing market was flat in the first half,' Mr Lau said, pointing out this sluggish scenario was likely to remain in the foreseeable future. However, due to Beijing's imminent accession to the World Trade Organisation, prospects for the mainland market were still optimistic, Mr Lau said. The company would expand its retail network and seek partners to explore new investment opportunities in the mainland, he said. Giordano has more than 300 outlets in the mainland, accounting for about 40 per cent of the company's 825 outlets in the Asia-Pacific region. The company also has operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia and the Middle East. Mr Lau said it was eyeing entry into other markets. 'We are planning to extend our operation to western Europe as well as Japan by next summer,' he said. Meanwhile, Mr Lau said about six million Giordano shares that had been accumulated through options exercises had been disposed of by members of management in the past two months. Some analysts blamed the company's recent share-price fluctuations on these executive disposals. In the past two months, Giordano's share price has dropped to as low as HK$10 from HK$12.50. Mr Lau said: 'Compared to more than a million shares average daily turnover, I don't think the amount of such disposal is significant [enough to affect the price].' Nonetheless, the company's board could ask management to dispose of shares gradually, Mr Lau said. Yesterday, Giordano's shares rose 5.37 per cent to close at HK$10.80. Shareholders at a meeting yesterday approved the subdivision of shares on a one-into-two basis. Dealings for the subdivided shares will begin today.