Mainboard-listed firm Euro-Asia Agricultural (Holdings) closed up 7.23 per cent yesterday as the flower and vegetables producer and trader posted a 173 per cent year-on-year surge in net profit. Still in the shadow of an earlier controversy, the firm also unveiled measures to improve corporate governance, including the hiring of a new chief executive. In its first annual results since its July stock debut, Euro-Asia's net profit of 521.1 million yuan (about HK$488 million) far exceeded the 392 million yuan forecast in its prospectus. Turnover rose 64 per cent over a year earlier to 1.1 billion yuan. Net profit margin widened by 18.8 percentage points to 47.3 per cent, buoyed by savings from preferential tax treatments and expanded sales both domestically and overseas, company chief financial controller Yan Chuang said. Earnings per share were up 133 per cent at 37 fen. The board, chaired by 72.3 per cent shareholder Yang Bin, recommended a dividend of 6.81 HK cents per share, estimated to cost the firm 120 million yuan. Mr Yang stands to pocket HK$81.72 million in dividend. Early this year, UBS Warburg head of China research Joe Zhang Huaqiao raised concerns that Mr Yang might divert funds from the listed concern to subsidise his private business. Euro-Asia shares responded with a 23.91 per cent dive on January 2 alone but have since recovered ground. It closed yesterday at HK$2.225, 21 per cent above the close on December 31. Mr Yan yesterday said that Euro-Asia's naming of a new chief executive was 'to separate the functions of the board chairman and the CEO and reduce the major shareholder's influence over the firm's day-to-day operations'. 'I will be the decision-maker,' said Mr Yang. The new chief executive, not identified during yesterday's press conference, had not worked in his firms before. 'Our new chief executive is a seasoned agricultural expert with more than 10 years of experience in the sector. He has done business and served in the Chinese foreign trade ministry. We will provide more details later,' Mr Yang said. A detailed annual report on Euro-Asia's Web site identified the new appointee as Chen Jun, who had joined Euro-Asia in January but was officially given the senior job yesterday. A plan to double the number of independent directors to four had been delayed by the withdrawal of previous candidates, said Mr Yan.