Asian retailer Dairy Farm International has posted a rise in first-half profit, helped by strong performances in all of its markets except Hong Kong.

Dairy Farm reported underlying net profit of US$44m for the six months to 30 June, compared with $30m in the year-ago period, reported Reuters.

The company, whose operations include supermarkets and convenience stores, said sales from continuing operations were up 13% to $2.13bn.

The rise in profit came despite Dairy Farm’s 50%-held Hong Kong fastfood chain Maxim’s posting a 47% fall in earnings due to the SARS virus and weak consumer demand.

"Because of 56 straight months of deflation Hong Kong is probably the toughest retail market we serve," group chief executive Ronald Floto was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The company said it would stick to its expansion plans throughout Asia during the second half of the year, with particular focus on expanding its network of 7-Eleven stores in southern China. The company also plans to open more Giant hypermarkets in Southeast Asia this year.