Singamas Container Holdings, the world's second-largest maker of shipping containers, forecast an improved second half after reporting a 61 per cent decline in first-half profit that sent the shares tumbling. Net profit fell to US$10.86 million, or 1.78 US cents a share, from US$28.09 million, or 4.6 US cents, a year earlier, the company said yesterday. Turnover slumped 32 per cent to US$268.35 million from US$393.84 million as sales failed to repeat a surge in demand in the year-earlier period. The shares fell 15.33 per cent yesterday to close at HK$4.25. 'The result was worse than my expectations,' said an analyst who declined to be named. 'It seems the company could not ride on the rebound of selling prices [for containers] in the second quarter.' Chairman Chang Yun-chung said the second half would improve because of a recovery in the selling price of containers and a pickup in orders. 'The container box price has increased from US$1,400 per 20-foot dry freight container at the end of 2005 to around US$2,000 for August 2006 delivery,' Mr Chang said. 'Orders are also increasing starting from the second quarter of 2006.' The dry freight container price fell 21.7 per cent to US$1,635 in the first half, while sales volume slid 32.2 per cent. Mr Chang blamed the soft demand on the abnormal sales trend in the first half of last year, when orders were much larger than in the following six months. The profit contribution from container manufacturing, which made up about 70 per cent of Singamas' operating profit, was halved to US$12 million. Container depot/terminal business posted a 60 per cent surge in operating profit while mid-stream services inched up 2 per cent. The two segments accounted for the remaining 30 per cent share of the company's operating profit. The company proposed a dividend of four HK cents a share, down from nine HK cents previously.