Printer manufacturer Epson hopes to boost sales in Hong Kong with the appointment of young Cantopop stars Twins as its latest image ambassadors. But the bright news yesterday was counterbalanced by the announcement the firm would close its scanner production operation in Singapore at a cost of 700 jobs. The company announced a HK$10 million marketing campaign to promote its printers in Hong Kong. The Twins - Gillian Chung Yan-tong and Charlene Choi Tsoek-jin - are the latest in a series of Epson Image Ambassadors. Since the strategy was used to launch the career of local star Kelly Chen Wai-lam in 1998, subsequent stars have included Rain Lee Choi-wah and Louis Koo Tin-lok. The Twins are expected to work with Epson on the promotion for at least two years. According to International Data Corp (IDC), total printer shipments in Hong Kong dropped 9 per cent from 410,000 units in 2000 to 370,000 last year. However, Epson's managing director in Hong Kong, Keizo Kitahara, said printers and scanners would become essential household items in future and the market for peripheral products would be more competitive. IDC research manager Martin Chau said the drop in sales was partly due to the worsening market after the September terrorist attacks and the rising unemployment rate in Hong Kong. Mr Chau said: 'Besides, there are fewer bundling packages of home PCs with printers nowadays. In the past, it was very popular for customers to get a free inkjet printer when they bought a PC. But now they have more options to choose from, among them printers, DVD-Rom, CD-RW or LCD.' Epson is the market leader in Hong Kong with more than 40 per cent share and ranked second in the Asia-Pacific inkjet printer market, excluding Japan, last year. A spokeswoman said: 'With our series of promotions, we hope to keep our leading position, so whenever people want to buy a printer, they will at once think about Epson.' The Twins yesterday were promoting the launch of Epson's Perfection 1650 scanner and Stylus Photo 810 colour ink-jet printer. The two devices are for sale together for HK$2,888. Epson announced it would cut the price of its Stylus C50 and C60 colour printers. Meanwhile, Seiko Epson announced it would close its scanner manufacturing business in Singapore and transfer all production to Indonesia and China to take advantage of lower costs and cheaper labour. A total of 700 people would lose their jobs. Seiko Epson spokesman Kenkichi Shibata told AFX-Asia: 'With the clear trend in falling prices, this is a strategy to ensure our survival and increase profitability. If we could produce scanners at the same wage level as offered in China, for example, we could continue production in Singapore, but that is very difficult in the current situation.'