White goods maker Hefei Meiling has warned it slumped heavily into the red last year, becoming another casualty of the increasingly competitive home appliance market. Company officials also said they expected to slash employment to about 1,900 people this year, from 2,500 now and 3,000 early last year. 'Most of the lay-offs will be casual workers,' an official at the firm's headquarters in Anhui's provincial capital of Hefei said. The Shenzhen-listed refrigerator maker blamed the expected loss last year on intensified competition and costs from restructuring the firm's sales network. 'The board expects to see a rather substantial loss for last year,' the company said in a statement published in domestic financial newspapers. 'As a result of the increasing competition in the domestic appliance sector, profit margins have narrowed.' The official said the loss occurred despite an increase in market share, which he claimed was partly at the expense of big domestic competitor Qingdao Haier. Hefei Meiling reported a profit last year of 5.5 million yuan (about HK$5.15 million) on domestic accounting rules, down from a profit of 47.9 million yuan in 2000. But under international accounting standards it was already in the red in 2000 to the tune of nearly 28 million yuan. The company had reported a profit upturn in the first half of last year and the reversal for the full year was another blow to the economy in Anhui, one of the nation's poorer regions. Home appliance production is a mainstay of the local economy. Big United States appliance maker Maytag recently said it would pull out of its venture with another Anhui company, Rongshida.