HONG KONG is now in the midst of its reporting season. A wave of half-yearly results from public companies are being released. With very few honourable exceptions, those reporting should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Not for the quality of the results, but the manner in which they present them - or rather fail to present them. This shame should also be felt by the stock exchange which has allowed the process of spreading company news in this territory to remain in the 19th century when so much has been done to bring the rest of the market into the 21st. For investors, fund managers and analysts and, yes, journalists on the South China Morning Post and every other newspaper in town, the reporting season is more a hunting season. If shareholders and others interested in the financial health of Hong Kong companies wonder why the analysis that accompanies the figures is not of the same calibre as that seen in London's Financial Times, New York's Wall Street Journal or Japan's Nihon Keizai Shimbun, they should talk firmly to the company secretary of the firm in which they are interested, and then to the stock exchange. While companies such as HSBC Holdings and some other blue chips take the release of their results seriously, with early announcements and even press and analysts' meetings, too many others try to slip them out unseen and uncommented on. Faxes with the minimum of information appear late at night or, too often, in the early hours of the morning; obviously, there is no officer of the company available for explanation and comment, and the accompanying text - if any - is often misleading and a sad attempt to hide the truth that is readily apparent from the figures. If Hong Kong is to advance as a financial centre, a wide range of measures must be introduced - and among the most urgent is the imposition of an efficient and comprehensive system for the release of corporate announcements. This is the age of electronic and instant information, and there is no reason why the stock exchange network should not be seriously upgraded so that before the market opens - not after it has long been closed - company information is ready and waiting for investors, brokers and analysts. If it is beyond the exchange, then hand the job to the private sector - as it is in other centres where the wire services have the authority to broadcast information. If one of the criteria for a developed market is transparency, in this aspect, at least, Hong Kong remains in the dark ages. It is time the light was turned on.