Appliance maker Qingdao Haier suffered a 41.2 per cent year-on-year slump in profit for the first nine months as demand softened for its air-conditioners and refrigerators. The Shanghai-listed A share has shifted its focus to exports in the face of intensifying domestic competition, but higher overseas sales failed to offset falling profit margins on its core products. The company, the listed unit of China's biggest appliance-maker Haier Group, said net profit fell to 343.14 million yuan (about HK$323.3 million) from January to last month from 584 million for the same period last year. It had posted a 45 per cent drop in profit to 219.18 million yuan for the first half, its first decline since going public in November 1993. Qingdao Haier said exports of low-end, low-margin products accounted for a major portion of its total sales during the period, causing a slide in operating profit. 'The profit margins of [our] exported products are lower than on those sold domestically due to higher transportation costs and other expenses,' a spokesman said. But retail prices of the company's products were the same in China and overseas markets. In the first nine months, the company sold 3.01 million refrigerators, of which 1.59 million were exported. Of 2.05 million window-mounted air-conditioners sold, 600,929 were shipped overseas. No comparative figures for last year were given. Analysts said domestic sales of the company's air-conditioners, which used to account for more than 60 per cent of group profits, had dropped. Cooler weather in southern China had this year affected demand for its products, an analyst at Guotai Junan Securities said. Qingdao Haier said the company hoped to acquire production lines of high-end appliances from its parent in a bid to boost its profit margin. The company applied last year to the China Securities Regulatory Commission to sell 2.5 billion yuan in convertible bonds, but it is still awaiting approval. It planned to use more than 900 million yuan of the proceeds to buy production facilities of central air-conditioning systems from its parent, the spokesman said. Qingdao Haier said earnings per share was 0.43 yuan, down from 0.73 yuan previously. Return on assets fell to 6.5 per cent from 11.17 per cent in the same period last year. The company's shares rose 0.5 yuan to 11.05 yesterday. They have fallen 30.59 per cent this year.