Chinese infant formula maker Synutra International booked an increase in earnings during the first nine months of its financial year, driven by sales gains and improved efficiency.

The group said net income more than doubled to US$47.8m in the nine month period to the end of December. Operating income increased to $57.2m, compared to $27.7m in the year-ago period.

Chairman and CEO Liang Zhang attributed the improved performance to the group’s efficiency drive and higher sales in an increasingly competitive market environment. He said: “While competition in the Chinese infant formula market increased, our results this quarter reflect our ability to maintain sales growth through a strategic product offering, including premium and niche products, and drive profitability through operational efficiency. We intend to expand these initiatives as we strategically position Synutra to achieve sustainable growth in the coming quarters and years.”

Net sales increased to $303.8m from $271.8m in the prior-year period. Sales from branded powdered formula products increased to 92.7% of net sales, compared to 83.1% last year.