AN almost eightfold increase in profits from associated companies boosted net earnings at Lane Crawford for the six months ended September 30. Interim after-tax profit leaped 119.96 per cent to $99.2 million. Earnings per A share rose by a similar degree to 87.8 cents and B-share earnings increased from four to 8.8 cents. Turnover was $792.3 million, compared with $776.5 million for the same period last year, an increase of just two per cent. The operating profit rose a lacklustre 5.1 per cent to $46.7 million, taking operating profit margin to 5.9 per cent compared with 5.77 per cent previously. The profit from associated firms rose to $56.1 million from $7.2 million. Last year the department store chain started closing unprofitable specialist shops and opening new ones in different locations. Directors have proposed an increased interim dividend of 25.5 cents for A shares and 2.55 cents for B shares, compared with 22 cents and two cents respectively for the same period last year. Analysts have forecast a 39 per cent rise in year-end after-tax profits for Lane Crawford to $170.8 million, according to the November edition of the Estimate Directory. The group will book a profit of $433 million from the sale of Inter-Continental Plaza in Tsim Sha Tsui East in the second half to March 31 next year. The Singapore Lane Crawford department store is expected to open in the second quarter of next year. In July the company posted better-than-expected after-tax profits of $155.1 million for the year to March 31, a rise of 26.2 per cent, on the back of its revamped merchandising mix.