Bossini International Holdings, a casual wear retailer, saw its first-half earnings dive 85.8 per cent, hit by intensifying competition and higher rental and staff costs. To expand outside Hong Kong and other key markets, where profits have been crimped by new rivals, the company will open more stores in Singapore and Malaysia and set up operations in South Korea and Syria. Net profit slumped to HK$6.41 million in the six months to September from HK$45.21 million a year earlier while turnover fell 2.7 per cent to HK$969.98 million. The poor result prompted the management to shelve interim dividends, compared with 1.8 HK cents per share a year ago. 'Market competition continued to intensify,' the company said in a statement. 'An increasing number of new entrants and a vast variety of choices for casual wear products undermined the group's competitive edge in both Hong Kong and other core markets.' Intense competition dragged the company's same-store sales down 9 per cent, compared with a flat growth rate a year ago. Operating expenses rose 7 per cent to HK$451 million, mainly due to higher rental and staff costs. During the period, Bossini opened 18 outlets, adding the total to 1,086 worldwide at the end of September. Of these, 552 were directly managed outlets while 534 were franchised. To boost its retail network, the company aims to open 32 outlets in the second half, including three retail outlets in Hong Kong, 25 franchised outlets for export and two retail outlets in each of Singapore and Malaysia. It will also cut one retail and three franchised outlets in China and eight retail outlets in Taiwan. It also plans to make a foray into Korea and Syria in the next financial year. Hong Kong accounts for almost 50 per cent of Bossini's revenue, followed by China at 21 per cent, Taiwan at 17 per cent and Singapore at 9 per cent. Bossini's shares closed flat at 54 HK cents yesterday.