Hong Kong shares close down as China reopens on soft note

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 18, 2013 09:30 hrs

* HSI down 0.4 pct, CSI300 down 0.5 pct

* Financials main drag as China reopens after long holiday

By Yimou Lee and Chen Yixin

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares fell on Monday, weighed down by Chinese insurers and banks and pressured by losses in mainland China markets as they reopened after a long holiday break.

The Hang Seng index ended down 0.3 percent at 23,381.94 points, while the China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong shed 0.9 percent.

On the mainland, where markets reopened after a one-week break for the Lunar New Year festival, the CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings ended down 1.2 percent at 2,737.47. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5 percent to 2,421.56.

Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi International in Hong Kong, said there was no clear sign of market direction for investors in the Hang Seng Index, but said there were signs of a shift to Macau gambling stocks and shares in companies which were expected to profit from increased investment in urbanisation in mainland China.

Communist Party chief Xi Jinping listed urbanisation among his key priorities in December.

Shares in Macau gambling operator Sands China Ltd, which have climbed 73 percent since July 2012, rose 1 percent, while Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd was up 1 percent.

Jackson Wong, vice president for equity sales at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong, said investors in the city had expected a stronger opening for mainland markets.

"Prior to any major news before the power transition (in China) in March, we are going to be in the consolidation mode," Wong said.

Chinese insurers and banks were among the top drags on the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Shares in China Life fell 1.2 percent, While Ping An Insurance dove 4.5 percent in Shanghai and 1.3 percent in Hong Kong.

Energy shares were mostly down as China's nascent economic recovery has so far failed to drive up coal prices. China Coal Energy, down 7 percent this month, dove 2 percent, while China Shenhua Energy Co Ltd fell 1.8 percent.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing's property firm Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd fell 0.6 percent after the company said it had dropped a plan to list its hotel business and would instead sell part of the unit to generate cash.

Shares in China's offshore oil and gas specialist CNOOC Ltd fell 0.5 percent after U.S. oil firm ConocoPhillips received approval for an oilfield in northern China, in which CNOOC has a 51 percent stake.

China Gogreen Assets Investment Ltd rose 2.6 percent after media reports it was in talks about developing solar power stations in Henan Province with an expected investment of 720 million yuan ($115.52 million).

Shares of SCMP Group Ltd, publisher of Hong Kong's leading English newspaper, surged as much as 31 percent prior to a trading halt. The company said in a filing sent to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange it was in talks with third parties regarding a possible acquisition.

Aeon Stores Co Ltd fell 5.6 percent after warning it expected a significant decrease in full-year net profit in 2012.

Gold stocks also weighed after gold prices fell to a six-month low on renewed worries about the health of the euro zone economy. It rebounded slightly on Monday as bargain hunters resurfaced and jewellers in China returned to the physical market.

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