Vinatex, the state-owned Vietnam National Textile And Apparel Group, has posted an 8.4% rise in sales for the first half of the year to VND10,677bn (US$662.1m) and is eyeing offices in its key export markets.

The conglomerate, which is Vietnam's largest textile and garment group, said profit in the six month period since it became an official member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was US$13.6m.

Despite increasing difficulties in exporting to the US market due to the monitoring mechanism imposed by the US government, Vinatex exports rose 14.9% to US$661.1m.

Leading export companies within the Vinatex group include Ha Noi Textile Garment Corporation, Viet Tien Garment Corporation, Phu Bai Spinning, and Hoa Tho Joint Stock Textile Garment Corporation.

Vinatex said it is planning to send a special delegation to Taiwan and Korea to seek foreign investment in its key projects.

"The Vietnamese textile and apparel industry needs to improve its capacity to supply materials, push up investment and upgrade equipment and technologies in order to increase the added- value in its export products", said Le Quoc An, president of Vinatex.

Existing projects carried out by Vinatex and its members between January and June included a dyeing, printing and finishing factory with production output of 25m metres per year; a denim fabric plant with a capacity of 30m metres per year; a polyester staple fibre plant producing 300 tons daily; and a project to expand the Ha Noi textile garment fashion industrial college and the Ho Chi Minh City textile garment fashion industrial college.

Le Quoc An also wants Vinatex to establish representative offices in the US, Hong Kong, Japan and EU by 2010 in a bid to promote its exports.

Another key target is for several of its biggest enterprises to develop their own international brands.

The group has already built a network of 46 Vinatex Apparel Plazas in Vietnam to sell its apparel and fashion products.

By Ngo Tuan.