SEOUL-- Lotte Duty Free, South Korea's No. 1 duty-free operator, said Tuesday it swung to the black in the third quarter from a year earlier on cost-saving measures despite a sharp drop in the number of Chinese tourists.

The company said its operating profit came to 27.6 billion won (US$24.7 million) on a consolidated basis in the July-September period, with sales reaching 1.44 trillion won.

The figures were achieved despite the diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing over a U.S. missile defense system, it said.

In the second quarter of this year, Lotte Duty Free suffered a 29.8 billion won operating loss, after the Beijing government banned its travel agencies from selling Korea-bound group tour packages in apparent retaliation over Seoul's installation of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

Lotte Duty Free said its cost reduction efforts and an increase in sales contributed to the improvement in the latest quarterly earnings.

Its domestic stores recorded a combined 38.1 billion won in profit, including 85.1 billion won in operating income from city branches and 47 billion won in loss from airport branches, Lotte Duty Free said.

Its overseas stores posted 10.5 billion won in loss, down from 14.6 billion won recorded in the previous quarter, and sales increased 27 percent to 38.6 billion won. Lotte said the brisk performance of its Tokyo and Da Nang branches, which opened in March 2016 and May this year, respectively, led the growth.

Lotte Duty Free currently operates six stores in five foreign countries, including Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia, and is mulling over opening more stores in key Vietnamese cities.

Source: Yonhap News Agency