Hongkong Electric Holdings (HKE) stocks remain the most defensive in Hong Kong because limited exposure to property earnings has shielded the firm from the economic downturn. Despite the economic downturn, a guaranteed return of 15 per cent on invested capital and no exposure to property development meant earnings had hardly been affected, brokerage ABN Amro said in a report. This year's exceptionally hot weather would have brought a strong increase in maximum demand, the brokerage said, forecasting a maximum demand growth this year of 8.2 per cent. 'The HKE has already reported unit growth sales of 8.2 per cent so far this year, making it one of the few companies experiencing revenue growth against a declining economic trend,' the brokerage's report said. However, this year's hot, dry weather was a result of the El Nino weather pattern. The opposing effects of the La Nina pattern could bring excessive rainfall and cooler temperatures. If that happened: 'We should not be surprised if both unit sales and maximum demand growth decline sharply in 1999, averaging out the long-term trend that relates broadly to GDP [gross domestic product] growth.' ABN Amro believed Hong Kong island's long-term demand profile clearly supported the need for new capacity in 2004. This was based on demand growth forecasts of just 2 per cent next year, 3 per cent in 2000, 3.5 per cent in 2001 and 4 per cent thereafter.