By  on August 6, 2014

HONG KONG, (Reuters) — ANTA Sports Products Ltd, China's biggest footwear retailer by market value, posted a forecast-beating 28 percent rise in first-half net profit on Wednesday and said it was on the prowl for acquisitions to help it expand overseas.

ANTA, which has retail stores and counters in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, said it had expanded its presence in emerging markets in the first half and singled out growth in children's products and its e-commerce business for its solid performance.

"We are looking at acquisitions to grow our business overseas," chairman Ding Shizhong said at a results conference.

"We are looking at some targets. They are brands," he added, without elaborating.

China's sportswear companies are emerging from years of overzealous expansion that had been fuelled by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games fever, which resulted in bloated inventories.

ANTA, which has a market value of $4.4 billion, said net profit for the six months ended June rose to 802.8 million yuan ($130.15 million), up from 625.7 million yuan in the same period a year earlier.

That compared with an average forecast of 758 million yuan by three analysts polled by Reuters.

Turnover amounted to 4.12 billion yuan, up 22 percent.

Ding said the company was the first among its peers to recover, although that did not mean others would bounce back at the same pace as the industry still faced uncertainty due to a lack of product differentiation and fierce competition.

ANTA's shares closed up 5.2 percent in afternoon trade after the results to HK$14.24, their highest since July 2011, and outperforming a 0.3 percent fall in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

China's rapid urbanisation, an improvement in livelihoods and the popularity of sports in the country would further drive demand for affordable sportswear, the company said.

ANTA, which competes with Li Ning Co Ltd and foreign rivals such as Nike Inc and adidas AG , said its order value for delivery in the first quarter of 2015 maintained positive growth with a low double-digit increase year-on-year.

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