EVEN Hong Kong's raciest stocks this year failed to measure up to the way its blue chips performed last year. The shine came off China concept stocks and reality landed on the stock exchange like 10 tonnes of manure. While the best performers of the past 12 months managed to gain an average of 49.4 per cent, this looks feeble against the 120 per cent leap of the Hang Seng Index last year. This year, the index slumped 32.23 per cent and the average performance of all Hong Kong-listed stocks was minus 36.75 per cent. Only 206 firms managed to do better than that average, while 323 fared worse. The best of the best was London & Pacific Insurance Co - not a Hong Kong-based company. It managed to put on 150 per cent over the year, proving that it is not just salesmen who make money from insurance. From the sublime to the simply sad, and Hong Kong's worst-performing company, was Chuang's China Investments. It slowed up by a massive 85.8 per cent as the gloss came off China plays, especially after a rights issue announcement and results which showed a huge drop in turnover for the first half of the financial year. Most of the companies which made it into either the top or bottom 10 were small second liners, although shipping giant Orient Overseas (International), which made it to number two on the growth stocks hit parade, might quibble the point. Overseas International powered up by 68.3 per cent from $3 from January to to $5.05 yesterday. The company completed an eight-year restructuring process this year and came out with better results than analysts had expected. It ordered six huge container ships in March. One important feature of the bottom 10 was the heavy preponderance of China plays. From abysmal performers such as Chuang's China, the list stretched on. Analysts said the dreadful performance of Ultronics International Holdings, the former medical equipment specialist, whose shares fell by 81 per cent, could be blamed on investors' fears over China and the increasingly obvious unpredictability of mainland-related earnings as the company diversified. Prod-Art Technology (Holdings), the pager maker, was also dumped by investors. The firm earned 68 per cent of its profits from China last year, but its share price fell 80.7 per cent this year. The table of top performers was a more disparate bunch, but included some slightly surprising stock picks, such as MKI Corp. MKI's shares rocketed 41.9 per cent in value during the year. But the big rush came all at once around April. A new chairman, a flurry of announcements and the share price moved from the low 40s to 61 cents a share. Perhaps the stellar performance would have gone on all year, but the shares were suspended in June while the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) sought to clarify the deals MKI claimed to have in the pipeline. Also on the SFC hit list this year was Rich City Packaging Holdings. The firm saw its shares soar 64.4 per cent in the period since its listing at the end of April, but the ride has not been smooth. In June, Rich City revealed a payment to settle quality claims by the firm's major customer at the same time as a legal dispute broke out with that customer. It emerged that the payment had been left out of the company's prospectus and a later explanation was that the former chairman had made the payment. During the summer and early autumn, its shares bravely stayed above the issue price of $1, despite the waves of bad news. Then the stock took off, with a change of control to a man said to have strong mainland connections. The Securities and Futures Commission is investigating the trading of the firm's shares while the Stock Exchange has been probing for possible breaches of listings rules. Just outside the top 10, the more powerful entities emerge. At number 12 is First Pacific Co, the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate with interests ranging from banking to mobile telephones. First Pacific's shares put on 32.2 per cent this year, which should go some way to assuage the pain that followers of the company felt when it was pipped at the post for entry into the hallowed ranks of the Hang Seng Index amid the shake-up caused by the removal of Jardines companies. Consolidated Electric Power Asia (CEPA), Gordon Wu Ying-sheung's latest spin-off from Hopewell Holdings, managed to earn investors a 25 per cent return over the past 12 months as Mr Wu announced an ever-lengthening string of giant deals to build power stations from India to Indonesia. CEPA's shares were rated 17th-best performers in the market. The mark of a good performer in a year as ghastly for equity markets as 1994 is probably just posting a positive return. Giordano Holdings might have been expected to suffer from the poor retail environment which is starting to press shopowners. But few would have predicted that the Beijing authorities would close down Giordano's shop in the capital because Jimmy Lai, then the chairman of the firm, called Chinese Premier Li Peng a turtle's egg. Mr Lai left his position in Giordano and went off to spend more time developing his media enterprise. But despite the setbacks, and despite the firm's major mainland shareholder bailing out in the wake of the crisis, Giordano managed to turn in a respectable 12.6 per cent gain for fans of the only chain of shops in Hong Kong where the staff has a reputation for being routinely polite and friendly. Luoyang Glass Co seemed to have all the ingredients of a Great 1994 Share Disaster. There were already China glass firms listed, which analysts seemed to prefer. International sentiment on China was at a low ebb and deals were being pulled left, right and centre in early July when the listing went ahead. Sure enough, Luoyang slumped 20 per cent on its first day of trading, but investors have obviously seen the light since, and the stock returned one per cent for every $2.95 invested.