Moulin International's interim financial report for the 6 months ended last Sept. 30 says the Hong Kong-based group increased its share in Metzler International during the period. As of March 31 one year ago, it stood at 54.6 percent. Indicating that Moulin's equity position in Metzler is not yet finally settled, company officials declined to disclose the new percentage or the reasons for the increase.

Anyhow, the integration of Filos, which began in the Fall of 2001, helped Moulin to raise the turnover from its distribution activities in Europe by 29 percent in the 6 months ended last Sept. 30. The whole group recorded a 16 percent increase in its consolidated revenues to 616.25 million Hong Kong dollars (e73.56-m-$79.01m). Europe came to represent as a result 47 percent of the total turnover.

By integrating its European operations into a single business unit and streamlining them, the group managed to accelerate product development cycles and shorten delivery times. Leveraging the capabilities of Metzler International's new Italian design center, the group launched more than 600 new designs in the 6-month span.

US sales grew by 12 percent, thanks in part to an expansion of the customer base among independent opticians, chains and wholesalers. Sales in the Asia-Pacific region were stable. Moulin finalized last October the establishment in Shanghai of a new joint venture company in China, Shanghai Moulin International Holdings Ltd., to coordinate its manufacturing, distribution and retail activities in the Chinese mainland.

Moulin has 24 America's Eyes shops in Shanghai, but it branched out into Nanjing and Wuxi during the period. To support its overall growth, Moulin is building a new 10,000-square-meter eyewear factory in Chaoyang with an annual capacity of 2.4 million pairs of optical frames per year.

The group's OEM business increased by 19 percent in the latest period, maintaining a profit margin above 40 percent, and it recently incorporated some sophisticated new processes. It's the first Hong Kong-based firm to have adopted a French injection moulding process for titanium frames.

The group's overall gross profit rose by 17 percent in the 6-month period to 58 percent of sales. The Ebitda was up by 7 percent, but restructuring costs of 10.2 million HK dollars (e1.2m-$1.3m) contributed to lower the operating income to 103 million HK dollars (e12.3m-$13.2m). Net income was down to 70,112,000 HK dollars (e8,370,000-$8,989,000) from 86,431,000 HK dollars in the same period a year earlier.

Moulin has decided to change its fiscal year to end on Dec. 31 rather than on March 31 because some major subsidiaries acquired by the group follow the calendar year. Results for the 9-month fiscal year ended last Dec. 31 are due to be published on or before next Apr. 30.