Piped-gas distributor China Gas aims to more than double fuel sales to one billion cubic metres in the year to March next year on its expanded business scale and the mainland's rising demand for clean energy. The Hong Kong-listed firm, which increased gas sales 145 per cent to 432 million cubic metres in the year ended March, also said it had set aside HK$1.5 billion in this fiscal year for capital expenditure to add gas networks in eight more cities, bringing its total coverage to 65 cities, managing director Liu Minghui said. The urban piped gas industry in the mainland has enormous room for development, as annual natural gas consumption is estimated to almost double to 110 billion cubic metres by 2010 from 60 billion cubic metres, Mr Liu said. China Gas also aims to increase compressed natural gas filling stations to 50 from 21 this fiscal year, and begin importing energy products, mainly liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas, from the Middle East through its 50-50 joint venture with Oman Oil. Mr Liu anticipated that the venture's first shipment of LNG from Oman would reach the mainland in September or October, but did not give further details. Oman Oil, the Oman's oil and energy investment vehicle, has a 7.44 per cent stake in China Gas. Shares in China Gas fell 4 per cent yesterday, closing at HK$2.88, in the first day of trading after it reported lower-than-expected full-year earnings on Friday. The company said that net profit for the year ended March rose 21.3 per cent to HK$190 million on turnover of HK$1.24 billion, missing the Thomson First Call survey consensus of HK$202 million. Sales of gas have replaced connection fees to become the firm's main source of income, accounting for more than 60 per cent of total turnover. However, the increase in the proportion of gas sales, which has a lower gross profit margin of only 15 per cent, have also dragged down China Gas' overall gross profit margin. It fell to 34 per cent from 48.4 per cent a year earlier.