THE roller-coaster gyrations of Asian stock and currency markets over the past week have had an impact far beyond the region. As far afield as Britain, companies which in the past have gained from exposure to Asia's high growth markets are feeling share price pressure as they tremble in the wake of Asian financial turmoil. Well-known firms, such as HSBC Holdings, Standard Chartered and Cable & Wireless (C&W), have been among the most heavily hit, but investor nervousness has affected other companies. Major chemical, engineering, oil and utility companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange are regarded as vulnerable. Since August 12, HSBC has seen its share price plummet 13 per cent on the back of the Asian currency crisis, while Standard Chartered, which has more exposure to the region, has seen its stocks dive 25 per cent since reaching a peak on August 7. Bank-sector analysts say they will not change their earnings estimates, but they recognise that currency devaluations in the region, allied to fear of higher interest rates, hold a potential impact that would be reflected in bank share prices. Exposure to Southeast Asia is seen as a weakness for HSBC and Standard Chartered, but with most of their Asian earnings coming from Hong Kong, they are regarded as having at least some of their exposure effectively hedged. 'The situation in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia is volatile, but people realise that the Hong Kong economy is not closely tied in with these markets,' Salomon Brothers European banking analyst John Leonard said. The bigger Hong Kong issue was whether regional mutual funds, largely overweight in Hong Kong, saw their performance dragging as the region slumped, and began to feel redemption pressure. He suggests they will not only choose Hong Kong because it is the most liquid market, but also will choose the most liquid stock, HSBC. Lehman Brothers banking analyst Ian McEwen said HSBC and Standard Chartered shares might suffer in the short term, but volatility in Asia would not have any fundamental impact on underlying earnings. 'Our guess is that while it is distressing for people investing in the stock market, in terms of long-run economic growth, it is not a big deal,' he said. 'The only thing this tells us is that we have risk.' Telecommunications company C&W, which owns about 54.5 per cent of Hongkong Telecom, also has been badly hit by the market turmoil in the region. Since July 18, it has seen its share price fall 11 per cent because of Asia's jittery markets. But analysts said they were not keen to see the currency as a long-term influence on the viability of its prospects. 'Telecommunications is a long-term business. Although there has been some concern about the performance of some Asian economies, as a telecoms analyst, I am not prepared to take a bleak view of C&W,' Doug Hawkins of Nomura Research Institute said. Analysts admitted that C&W's shares were seen as particularly vulnerable to events in China, given a premium factored in after the company announced a phased sell-down of its stake in Hongkong Telecom, in return for greater access to China. With about 65 per cent of C&W's total operating profits coming from Hongkong Telecom, the company is almost treated as a red chip, and is seen as moving in tandem with the red-chip market. 'If one looks beyond the immediate horizon, and considers the opportunities for growth in telecoms, measured perhaps by the number of telephones per 100 people, I think the outlook for telecoms activities in Asia must be rated quite highly,' Mr Hawkins said. Protracted financial market turmoil may serve to change these views. The high price of imports that the currency devaluation will create could slow economic growth to a pace that even the resulting cheaper exports may find difficult to kick-start. For British stocks, such as chemicals group Imperial Chemical Industries, this could create problems. The company, which has invested much in expanding its paint operations in the region, hopes to see its Asian earnings rise from 17 per cent of its current GBP10.5 billion (about HK$129.86 billion) turnover, to 25 per cent by 2005. Since August 12, its share price has dropped 9 per cent and other companies such as industrial gases giant BOC Group, which has a third of all its sales in Asia, and Yule Catto & Co, the speciality chemicals company which derives a quarter of all its sales in Asia, could also be affected. British chemical companies have been among the most pioneering in the world in their exploitation of Asian markets, but that could have a negative impact on their share prices, analysts say. Since August 20, Yule Catto's shares have fallen 5 per cent, while BOC's price is down 10 per cent since August 8. Yet analysts are keen to stress that all these effects are likely to be short-term. Indeed, currency depreciation meant the investment was cheaper for foreign companies, and lent some attraction. Oil giants British Petroleum (BP) and Shell were both thought unlikely to change their plans in the region. NatWest Markets analyst Fergus Macleod said BP had low direct exposure to Asia, although Shell had a larger refining and marketing presence, through its petrol stations. 'But as a proportion of global earnings, these are still small numbers,' he said.