HONG KONG, May 8 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares may start steady on Wednesday as investors brace for China trade data at 0200 GMT for the latest gauge of the health of the region's biggest economy after a recent series of soft data raised concerns about the growth outlook.
The median forecast of economists polled by Reuters showed China's exports likely grew 10.3 percent in April from a year ago, up from an increase of 10 percent in March, helped by a low-base comparison the year before. Imports were seen rising 13.9 percent last month, down from a rise of 14.1 percent in March.
Hong Kong Exchange (HKEx), AAC Tech and Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation Ltd are due to post first quarter net profit later in the day.
On Tuesday, the Hang Seng Index rose 0.6 percent to 23,047.1 points, stymied by chart resistance at the March 11 closing high at about 23,090.8. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong climbed 1 percent.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei was up 0.5 percent, while South Korea's KOSPI was flat at 0054 GMT.
FACTORS TO WATCH:
* Dairy products maker China Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd said on Wednesday it planned to buy 26.92 percent of China Modern Dairy Holdings Ltd for HK$3.18 billion ($409.78 million) to secure a stable, long-term premium milk supply.
* Esprit Holdings Ltd said it would record a substantial second-half loss due to soaring costs related to store closures and acquisitions in China.
* HSBC aims to keep the pressure on costs after first-quarter earnings nearly doubled due to the bank's three-year efficiency drive and a halving in bad debts charges.
* Telecom Italia's board is likely to put off making a decision this week on whether to open formal merger talks with Hutchison Whampoa, as key shareholders are divided on the issue, sources with knowledge of the situation said.
* Husky Energy Inc, Canada's No. 3 integrated oil company, said on Tuesday its $6.5 billion Liwan Gas Project in the South China Sea was on track to start production in late 2013 to early 2014. Liwan 3-1 is the largest ever natural gas discovery offshore China and Husky has been jointly developing the field in partnership with CNOOC.
* China's Huabei Petrochemical Company, a subsidiary of oil major PetroChina, is expected to double its refining capacity by the end of 2014, two years behind its original plan, industry officials said on Tuesday.
* Vale SA , the world's biggest iron ore miner, hopes to boost sales to the U.S. steel industry, which has become more competitive as the country's shale gas boom has lowered costs, the Brazilian miner's CEO said on Tuesday.