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Hong Kong, China shares tepid ahead of earnings frenzy

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Fri, Mar 22, 2013 08:56 hrs

* HSI, H-shares -0.4 pct; CSI300 flat, Shang Comp +0.1 pct

* A-shares headed for best week in nearly 2 mths

* Petrochina off after earnings miss; CNOOC, Sinopec to come

* Citi, EPFR: Offshore China funds in 4 weeks of net outflow

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, March 22 (Reuters) - Hong Kong and China shares were tepid on Friday ahead of a slew of earnings expected from bellwether companies that will offer clues on how Chinese corporates are adapting to the country's changing economic landscape.

Onshore Chinese indexes are headed for their best weekly showing in almost two months, outshining offshore peers for a second week. A-shares are trading at the biggest premium over H-shares in more than six months.

At midday, the Hang Seng Index and the China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong each slipped 0.4 percent. That put them down 1.8 and 1.1 percent this week and on track for a second weekly loss.

The CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings was flat, while the Shanghai Composite Index inched up 0.1 percent. On the week, they are now up 3 and 2.1 percent, respectively.

"A lot of companies have so far reported earnings broadly in line with expectations," said Peter So, co-head of research at CCB International Securities.

With investors still divided on the pace of earnings recovery, they are more likely to reward companies able to generate more immediate returns on new capital expenditure, So added.

According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, 43 percent of Hong Kong-listed companies have reported earnings, and almost half of those missed expectations. In the materials sector, 62 percent of companies that have reported in produced results which were below estimates.

On Friday, PetroChina sank 2.5 percent to its lowest since Dec. 4 in Hong Kong after it reported a steeper-than-expected 13.3 percent drop in 2012 net profit on Thursday, due in part to ballooning losses at its natural gas import business.

The other two Chinese oil majors, CNOOC and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp (Sinopec) are due to post their corporate earnings by Sunday. CNOOC was down 1.3 percent at midday and have dived almost 15 percent in 2013.

Sinopec shares climbed 0.6 percent in Hong Kong and 2.3 percent in Shanghai and, for the year, are now flat and up 11.1 percent, respectively.

In the last 30 days, nine of 31 analysts who follow CNOOC have downgraded its 2012 full year earnings-per-share estimates by an average of 3 percent, while there were no revisions for Sinopec, according to StarMine.

In Hong Kong, CNOOC is now trading at a 22 percent discount to its historical median 12-month forward earnings multiple, while Sinopec is trading almost at par with its historical median, according to StarMine.

China Construction Bank slipped 0.3 percent in Hong Kong and was flat in Shanghai ahead of its earnings later in the day, the first among the "Big Four" Chinese banks to report.

China Unicom's Hong Kong shares are headed for their best day since July, soaring 4.6 percent after the country's second-largest mobile carrier posted a slightly better-than-expected 68 percent rise in 2012 net profit from a year earlier.

Global supply chain manager Li & Fung jumped 4.2 percent as investors cheered the company's decision to almost halve its 2013 operating profit target. The company says it will focus on acquiring key brands to fuel growth.

This was despite the company posting late on Thursday a 42 percent slump in 2012 operating profit, consistent with a warning it issued in January.

Since Jan. 30, the Hang Seng Index has declined 7 percent while the China Enterprises Index has shed more than 10 percent. Citi strategists said in a note on Friday that offshore China funds saw a fourth-straight week of net outflows in the week ended March 20, citing data from global flows tracker EPFR.




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