Li & Fung Limited, the world's largest supplier of apparel and consumer goods, today (22 March) booked a 24% hike in full-year profit thanks to the expansion of its sourcing network and growth in its Asia business.

Net profit in the year to 31 December reached US$681m, up from $548m the year before, while core operating profit grew by 22% to US$882m.

The results mark the end of the first year of an ambitious three-year growth plan set by the sourcing giant to achieve $1.5bn in core operating profit by 2013 - with acquisitions a cornerstone in achieving this.

Despite a sluggish global economy the group, whose customers include retailers and brands like Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's and Marks & Spencer, saw its turnover for the year climb 26% to $20.03bn, up from $15.9bn last time.

As well as organic growth and acquisitions, the gains have been helped by outsourcing deals with existing customers across Li & Fung's Trading, Logistics and Distribution networks.

Revenues in the Trading network have been lifted by 16% thanks to acquisitions including clothing makers Modium, Celissa, Loyaltex Apparel. While the Distribution network jumped 61%, with acquisitions here including fashion designer and licensor Beyond Productions, Hampshire Designers, and Fishman & Tobin.

"The robust performance shows that our strategy of completing the supply chain and further developing our three interconnected business networks is the right one for this new era of growth," noted group president and CEO, Bruce Rockowitz.

"This competitive advantage has not only expanded our business with significant cross-selling opportunities between our networks, but also allowed us to offer our customers end-to-end supply chain solutions.

"We expect the momentum to continue for 2012 as we continue to grow our businesses in Asia through the LF Asia platform."

The increased focus on Asia by international brands and retailers helped lift the region's share of total turnover to 12% from 4% last year - with China's share rising from 2% to 6% following the acquisition of Integrated Distribution Services Group (IDS) at the end of 2010.

Gains from IDS have also impacted other regions. For example, while the US continues to be the main export market, its share has fallen from 65% of total turnover in 2010 to a current level of 60%. Europe's share has also dropped from 24% to 21%.

Likewise, sourcing volume from Asia reached US$14.7bn - or 92% of total sourcing activities - spanning 20 economies in the region, including China, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.

"It's very encouraging to see a strong start to Li & Fung's 2011-2013 Three-Year Plan, which contains more growth drivers than ever before," said executive deputy chairman William Fung.

He added, "We're very pleased that, despite the difficult market environment, the group has concluded the year with such a strong performance and a significant increase in market share.

"Moving forward, we will continue with our twin organic and acquisition growth strategies and are confident that with our established market position, we are in a unique position to optimise opportunities for growth in the future."