The net profit of household product retailer Pricerite Group rocketed 111 per cent year on year to HK$12.78 million in the six months ended September 30. Turnover jumped 19 per cent to HK$499.26 million. No dividend is to be distributed. Chairman Bankee Kwan Pak-hoo said Pricerite improved its financial status after it was acquired by Celestial Asia Securities Holdings in February. The gearing ratio of the company is as low as 0.08, after it raised HK$138 million through a two-for-one rights issue last month. The company has HK$209.22 million cash on hand. 'The group is now debt free and in a healthy financial position . . . it has no funding pressure in the coming year for its expansion plan in Hong Kong and China,' Mr Kwan said. The group was planning to open five full-range stores in Hong Kong, with about HK$3 million to be invested in each. 'Pricerite targets mid- to low-income families, which make up 73.4 per cent of the total population,' said chief executive director Thomas Li Yuen-cheuk. 'We will open bigger stores with an average store area of 20,000 square metres in western island, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Yuen Long.' The group has earmarked HK$200 million for expansion in the China market. It is planning to open 20 outlets in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shenzhen in three years. 'We are targeting annual sales of 1.2 billion yuan [about HK$1.1 billion]. We expect to break even in three years,' Mr Li said. Despite the economic downturn, Pricerite has no plans to lay off staff or introduce pay cuts. Mr Li said it was planning to recruit 80 to 100 Hong Kong staff for its China expansion plan. Under mainland regulations, foreign companies need to co-operate with domestic firms to run retailing businesses. Mr Kwan said the group had already found a strategic partner in Shanghai and was discussing business plans with potential partners for the other cities.