Automated Systems Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed information technology services provider, said sales may double within three years, boosted by acquisitions and internal growth driven by its new mainland business. Automated said it may buy at least one mid-sized mainland IT firm out of five or six it is considering that are making a profit from providing information services in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. The acquisition would cost the company less than 100 million yuan and be completed in the first half next year, said managing director Lai Yam-ting. 'Our growth was quite robust before 2000 but has slowed since the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2001 and the outbreak of Sars in 2003,' Mr Lai said. 'If we want to grow faster, we must expand our business to the Greater China region, mainly the mainland market.' Automated, which employs about 1,100 people in Hong Kong, sent 10 to Guangzhou in September and spent 10 million yuan to form a venture in the city to explore the mainland IT solutions business. The company, whose net cash position declined 3 per cent to HK$284 million at the end of September from a year earlier, plans to double capital expenditure to HK$60 million this year. Its mainland business will catch up next year with its Taiwan and Macau operations which represent less than 10 per cent of recent sales and account for at least 50 per cent of revenue in 2009, he said. Automated, a 71 per cent-owned subsidiary of Singapore-listed CSA Holdings and United States-listed Computer Sciences Corp, reported a 58 per cent surge in net profit to HK$18 million for the six months to September 30 compared with a year earlier, as sales gained 12.3 per cent to HK$560 million. Sales, which rebounded 15.6 per cent to HK$1.1 billion for the year to March 31 from HK$955 million a year earlier, are climbing back to their historic high of HK$1.29 billion reached in 2002. Automated will use locally developed financial software to provide IT solutions to international firms and financial institutions in China and also target the government as a potential customer for human resource and document management systems. 'Commercial customers, which have accounted for half the company's total sales in the past decade, will be our first target in China,' Mr Lai said. 'The rest will be contributed by government contracts.' Last December, the company beat International Business Machines for two three-year outsourcing contracts with Cathay Pacific Airways, and will contribute monthly revenue of HK$1 million. The company's shares, which have gained less than 4 per cent this year, closed down 0.5 per cent yesterday at HK$1.91.