Busmaker Mudan Automobile has had a very bad year. The company posted a net loss of 15.41 million yuan for the 12 months to December, after a profit of 47.67 million yuan in 2002, due to higher material and operating costs arising from the Sars epidemic. The company's auditor said it could not substantiate write-downs of 84.57 million yuan worth of trade debt and 34.26 million yuan of inventory. Turnover at the Jiangsu-based firm, listed on the Growth Enterprise Market, rose 2.4 per cent to 910.11 million yuan. But gross profit margins fell to 8.7 per cent from 12.2 per cent as it offered volume discounts on medium and large buses to drive sales during the Sars outbreak. Rising steel prices also ate into operating margins, and the firm paid 15.92 million yuan to its sales staff to tide them over during the outbreak. Administrative expenses surged 103.4 per cent, partly due to higher fees for the approval of new models. Mudan said it held 74.32 million yuan - 24.9 per cent of its market capitalisation - in receivables from a single customer at the end of March this year, of which an undisclosed amount was overdue.