Li Ning, the mainland sportswear company, posted strong gains in earnings in the first half of the year as it expanded its retail network before the Beijing Olympics. Net profit for the six months to June jumped 52.58 per cent to 198.27 million yuan from 129.94 million yuan a year ago, while turnover rose 39.17 per cent to 1.9 billion yuan. The company said sales were boosted by expansion of its network, improved store efficiency and new products. Li Ning was founded by the former world gymnastics champion of the same name. Li Ning generated total revenue of 1.87 billion yuan from the sales of self-branded products, a 37.5 per cent gain over the same period last year. Sales of Li-Ning branded sports footwear rose 44.46 per cent, the biggest growth among its products. The company said strong growth in footwear sales was helped by the enhancement of the brand's image and incorporation of improved technology into designs. Z-DO, its new brand launched in April and which targets hypermarkets, recorded revenue of 28 million yuan in the first half. Li Ning said it would continue to expand its retail network in second and third-tier cities, as well as open flagship stores in first-tier cities. The company is intensifying marketing and promotion campaigns in first-tier cities as next year's Beijing Olympics approaches. Earnings per share in the period were 19.21 fen, against 12.66 fen in the first half of last year. Li Ning, which relies heavily on retail franchise partnerships, plans to add 500 stores this year, bringing its total to 4,800 outlets. The homegrown player is planning to have 5,700 stores in operation by 2009, most of which will be franchised. Last year, it expanded directly operated stores by 24.5 per cent to 458.