Vitasoy International Holdings, which sells soya-based drinks and other beverages in Hong Kong and overseas, said its first-half profit rose 9.9 per cent as growth in China, Australia and New Zealand outweighed declines in North America. Net profit rose to HK$100 million in the six months to September 30 from HK$91 million a year earlier, as turnover increased 5.1 per cent to HK$1.33 billion. Sales had 'very encouraging growth in mainland China, Australia and New Zealand and steady growth in Hong Kong', executive chairman Winston Lo Yau-lai said in an announcement. 'By comparison, the results in North America were somewhat lacklustre.' Vitasoy's operating loss in North America almost doubled to HK$16.73 million as sales dropped 2.6 per cent to HK$187.44 million. The widening loss was due mainly to charges from discontinued products, a decline in tofu volume and costs related to new products, Mr Lo said. Turnover in Hong Kong, Vitasoy's biggest market, rose 5.2 per cent to HK$732.5 million, helping to lift operating profit 5.9 per cent to HK$106.88 million. Operating profit from Australia and New Zealand soared 55.6 per cent to HK$20.13 million and in China 11.5 per cent to HK$44.55 million. The company introduced new high-value products and improved its supply chain management in the reporting period which helped to maintain gross profit margin at 58.7 per cent as sugar and energy costs rose, Mr Lo said. The margin was 58.8 per cent a year earlier. Gross profit increased 5 per cent to HK$779 million. The interim dividend of 2.8 cents per share was unchanged. The shares, which have gained about 8.4 per cent this year, closed little changed yesterday at HK$3.09.