The judging panel of the 1997 Hong Kong Business Awards met for the first time yesterday. Its members face one of the toughest exercises in the eight-year life of the presentation which is jointly sponsored by DHL International and the South China Morning Post. The candidates will be judged on their performances last year, when business conditions steadily improved after an uncertain start. Property and equity prices ended the year well ahead as confidence grew about the future after the June 30 handover. The skill with which business leaders anticipated the altered conditions and exploited the opportunities on offer in China will be an important factor for consideration by the judges. The twelve-member panel which will decide on the five categories of awards, consists of businessmen, observers and commentators, under the chairmanship of - for the second consecutive year - Sir Jack Cater. Members of the panel include last year's winners; Peter Sutch, chairman of Swire Group - Businessman of the Year; Alexander Au, chief executive of Hang Seng Bank - Executive Award; and Stephen Sy, chief executive of Bel Trade - Young Entrepreneur Award. Other members are Dr Eden Woon, director of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Po Chung, chairman of DHL International, Alec Tsui, chief executive of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, Allan Wong, chairman of V Tech Holdings, Garrie Roman, managing director of KPS, Michael Sze, executive director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Chris Langley, general manger of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Henry U, president of the Hong Kong Junior Chamber and Ray Bashford, business editor of the South China Morning Post. The five categories are; Businessman of the Year, the Executive Award, the Young Entrepreneur, the International Award and the Enterprise Trophy. Nominations for candidates close on Monday, September 22, and application forms are available by telephoning the Rowland Company on 2543-8882. The awards will be presented at the JW Marriott Hotel on Tuesday, December 9. Select committee - Members of the panel which will pick Hong Kong's business elite. Back row (from left): Alec Tsui, chief executive of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong; Henry U, president of the HK Junior Chamber; Allan Wong, chairman V Tech; Garrie Roman, managing director KPS; Stephen Sy, chief executive Bel Trade; Alex Au, chief executive of Hang Seng Bank. Front row (from left): Dr Eden Woon, director HK General Chamber of Commerce; Sir Jack Cater, chairman of the judging panel and the first commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption; Po Chung, chairman of DHL International; Ray Bashford, SCMP business editor.