Brokerages mixed on where '93 is heading

SENTIMENT among brokers is mixed towards the Hang Seng Index and the level at which they expect it to close on New Year's Eve this year.

At best, brokers are expecting a 1,611-point rise in the index to 7,500, or 27.4 per cent up.

This figure was the forecast, and in one case actually below the forecast, for the year-end figures being tipped for 1992.

The Sino-British row over the extension of democracy in Hongkong saw an end to those ideas.

Instead, the index rose 28 per cent to 5,512.39. This, ironically, was the consensus forecast being touted at this time last year - before the Hang Seng Index bull run took its course and actually pushed the index to 6,447.11 on November 12, the last high of 1992.

At worst, brokers are expecting the index to edge past 6,000. The bears believe the storm clouds have only just begun to gather over Hongkong's shining stock market and will stymie any chance of a resumption in the bull run.

Baring Securities director of research Adrian Faure takes the dour view on the market, tipping the year-end level of the index to be 6,250.

The brokerage has been a bear on the market since the late summer.

It is predicting a 1993 decline in new residential property values of about 20 per cent in the next 12 months, a slow down in earnings, a possible up-turn in the interest-rate cycle and little excitement from big blue-chip stocks such as Hongkong Telecomand HSBC Holdings. The scope for upside progress in the index is limited.

The brokerage is not expecting a short-term resolution to the Sino-British impasse, anticipating the Legislative Council will not finish discussing plans for democracy in Hongkong until June and there might not be a solution until the third quarter.

Meanwhile, a slow-down in China's economic growth is anticipated because of the expected high inflation there as the year progresses.

Barclays de Zoete Wedd is also somewhat bearish as it is expecting a year-end figure of just 6,500, just over 50 points ahead of the record scored last year.

Crosby Securities is expecting a year-end figure of 7,000.

For the bulls, things do not look so bleak. SG Warburg Securities and Sun Hung Kai Securities are going for 7,500 by the end of the year.

As always, the mega-bull of the market is South China Brokerage which is expecting 8,000 to be touched in the year, the same forecast for the year-end level of the index for 1992.

Warburg says the 7,500 year-end level would put the index on an undemanding price-earnings multiple of 11 times 1994 prospective earnings.

Their estimate of net profit growth this year is 23 per cent and in 1994 it is 20 per cent. They expect earnings per share growth to be 19 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively.

Sung Hung Kai Securities director of research Percy Au-young said: ''So long as the political uncertainty is removed from the market, then we can easily go back to the last record of 6,447 and make further progress.'' This is especially so as the airport project is expected to get into full flow in the year and the tight mortgage lending at banks for residential properties will be relaxed.

He is anticipating an 18 per cent rise in earnings per share growth this year and 15 per cent next year.