Hong Kong shares gain, China Taiping soars on restructuring plan

Last Updated: Tue, May 28, 2013 05:10 hrs

* HSI +0.1 pct, H-shares +0.4 pct, CSI300 +0.3 pct

* Taiping set for best daily gain since October 2009

* Hengdeli jumps after China cut import duties on Swiss watches

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, May 28 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares rose on Tuesday with heavyweight China Taiping Insurance surging nearly 12 percent after it announced a $13.3 billion restructuring plan while its rivals slipped on a downgrade.

The Hang Seng Index ended the morning session up 0.1 percent, while the China Enterprises Index of the leading Chinese listings in Hong Kong rose 0.4 percent. Hong Kong bourse turnover at midday neared the weakest for the year.

In the mainland, the CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings gained 0.3 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index inched up 0.2 percent. Both remain mired in a 40-60 point range that has bounded their movements for more than a week.

"Other than some company-specific moves driven by news, I see some rotation into some recently beaten-down cyclical counters, but overall turnover is quite bad," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities' vice-president for equity sales.

Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday that China needs an average economic growth of 7 percent -- compared to the 7.5 percent official target for 2013 -- to reach its goal of doubling per capita gross national product by 2020, signalling tolerance for a slower pace of expansion.

China Taiping was in focus on Tuesday as investors were cheered by its plan to buy stakes in 25 companies totalling $13.3 billion from its unlisted parent to streamline shareholding and capital structure, funded by proceeds from the sale of new shares priced at HK$15.39 each.

CLSA analysts said the move by Taiping's parent to increase its stake from 53.2 percent to 69 percent removes an overhang, upgrading their view on the stock from "underperform" to "buy."

While Taiping is set for its best daily showing since October 2009, its major Chinese insurance sector rivals were mostly weaker after Goldman Sachs downgraded insurers from overweight to neutral, while upgrading their view on brokerages.

Goldman's China equity strategists said insurers could see unfavourable regulatory risks in the coming quarters and structural challenges within the sector, while reforms are likely to benefit brokers, particularly since investors are lightly positioned in the sector.

In Hong Kong, China Life Insurance and Ping An Insurance each slipped 0.2 percent, while Haitong Securities climbed 1.4 percent and Haitong Securities jumped 2.7 percent.

Shares of luxury watch retailer Hengdeli jumped 8.6 percent after China said it will cut import duties on Swiss watches by 60 percent over the next 10 years under a free-trade agreement which should help reinvigorate Swiss watchmakers' sales in a key market.

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