UPMARKET Joyce Boutique Holdings has continued to improve its performance, with net profit rising 33.7 per cent to $31.42 million for the six months to September 30. Earnings per share rose 34 per cent to 12.1 cents, from nine cents for the same period last year. Directors declared an interim dividend of 3.5 cents, against 3.2 cents previously. Operating profit grew 32 per cent to $36.95 million from $28 million. The growth continued although the group's operation in Taipei has not yet contributed to profit. Turnover rose 38 per cent to $423.99 million from $307.28 million. The performance was slightly better than market expectations, with analysts putting profit growth at 25 to 30 per cent. Noting that the company has maintained a steady growth over the past two years, group chairman Walter Ma King-wah said the strong performance was mainly due to operations in Hong Kong and Thailand. 'While our Taipei operation has not yet contributed to group profit despite first-half turnover of approximately $41 million, our overall performance and increasing profitability in our Hong Kong and Thailand retail operations as well as in our non-retailing businesses indicate that the fundamentals of our business remain sound,' said Mr Ma. The group believed the region's economic growth represented an upside potential. The group's Giorgio Armani boutique performed beyond its 'highest expectations', and it will be expanded early next year in anticipation of growing demand for this label. Although the bearish stock market might have an adverse effect on the retail industry, managing director Roberto Dominici said the group's high-end products were less vulnerable. The late winter affected sales in the first two weeks of this month and this would affect only marginally sales for the full year, he said. Mr Dominici, who visited China recently, said the group was eyeing the mainland market but it did not expect to expand there before 1998. The company said control on rents and staff costs also aided profit growth. Finance director Horace Lee said: 'Rental cost increases were kept below the rate of inflation and staff cost increases in line with inflation.' The group expected 'more-than-satisfactory full-year results' and that its performance in the next fiscal year would be even better. The World of Joyce of Taipei, which was said to have dragged down group profits, is expected to produce profit by 1996. Mr Lee said the expected operating losses at the Taipei outlet were partially offset by profit contributions from the group's non-fashion activities. Coming on line in the second half of the financial year is the completion of the second phase of the recently-expanded 8,500 sq ft World of Joyce lifestyle boutique at the Regent. Apart from opening four more boutiques in Hong Kong next year, the group will establish two more boutiques in Taipei. It will open a World of Joyce boutique in Bangkok by 1996.