THE shipping community and investors should be pleased with the financial results of Orient Overseas (International) Ltd (OOIL), which reported a healthy profit of more than $1 billion yesterday. It was less than a decade ago that the group was in danger of sinking under US$2.7 billion of debt and had to declare a moratorium on repayments. Since then, the group has kept a relatively low profile while it underwent a major financial restructuring programme, strengthened its management, establishing an integrated containerised transportation business and developing a strategy for the future. Along the way, it disposed of non-core assets, repaid debts, built a strong balance sheet and strengthened relationships with other major shipping lines to achieve economies of scale. Those who wish to point out that last year's profit was largely made up of extraordinary items like the sale of the group's stake in Hong Kong International Terminals, should also take note that the group is sitting on cash and saleable securities of US$478 million. The fact that banks and other financial institutions have agreed to extend the repayments of $541 million of borrowings shows their confidence in the emerging financial strength of the group. The group is now free from the restrictions imposed by the banks and other creditors and is able to operate under the direction of its board of directors and shareholders. In its efforts to maximise quality and profits, the group has transformed itself from a low quality carrier, although chairman C H Tung conceded yesterday that the transition had been painful. Despite the pain, the group has built up a solid core business with more than 135 offices in 40 countries and is now recognised as a global name. Based on turnover of more than $10 billion, it ranks as the sixth biggest company in Hong Kong. Having built a solid base, the group is poised to capitalise on the container and other businesses in China. As a traditional shipowner, the group has shown great confidence in its future by ordering six of the biggest container ships the industry will see over the next two years. The group's shareholders should continue to reap the benefits the company looks sure to provide.