Clothing designer and wholesaler Austin Group Ltd said on Wednesday it expected first half pre-tax profits to soar 275 per cent to A$1.5 million (US$0.76m) compared to A$0.4m (US$0.2m) in the year-ago period.

The Victoria-based clothing designer, importer and wholesaler attributed the forecast profits leap to an 11 per cent increase in sales to A$21.9m (US$11.1m).

"Sales for the second half of the financial year are significantly above the same time last year," the company said in a statement. "The directors anticipate that these increased orders will be reflected in improved profitability compared to the same period last year.

"In the interests of continuous disclosure...the forecast profit before tax for the period ending December 31, 2001 will be approximately A$1.5m (US$0.76m) versus A$0.4m (US$0.2m) for the same period last year (an increase of 275 per cent)."

It added: "Bank debt at December 31 was A$0.7m (US$0.35m), net cash at bank, versus A$3.8 m (US$1.93m) as at December 31, 2000."

The company also revealed it was considering several offers in the region of A$3m (US$1.52m) for its warehouse complex in Geelong on the western outskirts of Melbourne.

"The board will consider these offers at its next meeting and will also discuss how to apply those funds in the event an offer is accepted," it added.