Brightoil Petroleum, Shenzhen's largest fuel supplier to ocean-going vessels, is poised to enter markets in Europe and the United States after posting a 155 per cent jump in first-half profit. Brightoil, the only private company licensed to provide duty-free marine fuel to all Chinese ports, recorded a net profit of HK$429.39 million for the six months to the end of December, up from HK$161.2 million in the same period last year. Excluding non-recurring items, including a HK$219 million gain on oil and petrol futures contracts, hedging and a paper loss of HK$322.52 million on the value change in the derivative component of its convertible notes, pre-tax profit leaped by 234 per cent to HK$572 million. Brightoil chairman Sit Kwong-lam attributed the growth to a 110 per cent increase in fuel sales to 1.73 million tonnes from 0.84 million tonnes in the year earlier period, as it expanded sales to Shanghai, Ningbo, Hong Kong and Singapore. The company plans to start sales at other major mainland ports such as Rizhao, Qingdao, Tianjin and Dalian. Sit said it would also supply fuel in Rotterdam and Houston, without giving a time frame. DBS Vickers analyst Gideon Lo Wai-yip raised concerns about the plans, saying Brightoil's profit margin was curiously high compared with its largest competitor. Former monopoly China Marine Bunker (PetroChina), a joint venture between the nation's largest oil producer PetroChina and largest shipping firm Cosco Group, reported a net profit margin of 0.9 per cent in 2008 and 0.8 per cent in 2007 - the latest available data. This compared with Brightoil's net margin of 9.4 per cent in last year's first-half excluding non-recurring items, up from 5.2 per cent a year earlier. A Brightoil spokesman attributed the high margins to tight cost control and good timing in fuel purchasing but would not comment on the divergence with rivals. Brightoil's share price surged to HK$11.26 yesterday from HK$1.46 a year earlier. No brokerage analyst has issued detailed coverage on the stock.