Investors' guide to a volatile market

THE record rises on the Hongkong stock market took many investors by surprise, coming only a day after the close of the four-day Easter break.

Quite a number of both institutional and local retail investors were caught off guard by the announcement of a resumption of talks between China and Britain, which came after the market closed on Tuesday.

Yesterday's 57.7-point mini-consolidation of 6,732.04 offered little reprieve for any investor looking for cheap blue chip stocks to get on to the ''Hang Seng going up'' band wagon.

Business Post asked a number of brokerages what investors should do in the post-Sino-British talks announcement euphoria.

The answer was that those investors who have not yet got into blue chips should not bother unless they are long-term players looking at making a decent return over 12 months.

Investors who were lucky enough to have got in early and rode Wednesday's record 371.53 or 5.79 per cent rise in the Hang Seng index to 6,789.74 might consider taking some profits ahead of the start of the planned talks on April 22.

The British and Chinese sides in the talks really have got no closer together in terms of their principle stances to the governor Chris Patten's democracy proposals, so there are plenty of opportunities for walk outs and unfriendly press releases from the New China News Agency promising vile things to Jardines after 1997.

The conclusion of all of the brokers asked in the Business Post straw poll was investors should seek out value stocks among the second and third line, or smaller, companies.

These tend to get left behind in short sharp rallies like the current one being experience in Hang Seng index stocks.

Only property developers found any favour at all among the blue chips and this was a somewhat grudging recommendation.

Barclays de Zoete Wedd head of Hongkong equities research Philip Mok suggests: ''The next few weeks and months promise to be a volatile period for investors''.

However, SG Warburg Securities head of Hongkong equities research Danny Truel remains a firm believer in the market.

''You would only be selling now if you felt there was at least 10 per cent down side in the market,'' he said.

This would take it to 6,084, at which level it would be on a 10.9 times prospective price earnings ratio for 1993 and 9.32 in 1994.

''The current level in the stock market remains sustainable as there is some $25 billion of dividend money coming back into the pockets of investors providing further support for the market,'' Mr Truel said.

The Warburg forecast of 7,500 on the Hang Seng index by the end of the year remains firmly in place.

At BZW, Philip Mok is recommending Ka Wah Bank which operates 30 branches in Hongkong and three overseas in New York, Los Angeles and London.

The China International Trust and Investment Company controlled operation is riding the local bank earnings boom, with attractive interest rate margins.

This year, according to Estimate Directory forecasts, 34 per cent growth in net profit to $193 million is anticipated and 29 per cent growth in earnings per share is expected. It is on a prospective 1993 price earnings ratio of 14.5.

Mr Mok is also keen on Hopewell Holdings which can expect some strong earnings coming through in 1994 and 1995 from infrastructure projects in China.

It is on a 1993 prospective PE of 11.33. Its relatively poor rating, given the upside potential is due to the poor quality earnings coming through to net profits in the meantime.

The company is essentially reliant on property disposals to maintain profit growth.

The provincial owned Guangdong Investment is also marked as a possible buy.

This, like many of its red chip counterparts, is expected to see exceptional growth in net profits in the coming years, which eventually will be reflected in the earnings per share.

Meanwhile the stock, now at $3.20, is probably due for a re-rating in 1993.

Baring Securities, Adrian Faure has a somewhat more substantial list of recommendations in terms of sheer numbers. Hang Seng index constituents Hang Lung Development and Henderson Land he views as laggard, as they have actually underperformed the market's recent rise.

Less well known is the Chinese trading hong Li and Fung.

Analysts expect to see 44 per cent net profit growth in 1992 to $125.5 million and 27 per cent in 1994 to $160 million. The company is on a prospective PE of 11.9 times 1992 earnings and 10.46 in 1994.

Property development and investment companies Hon Kwok Land and Tai Cheung are old favourites of Mr Faure. For the year ending March 31, Hon Kwok's net profit is expected to grow by 155 per cent to $193 million and by 92 per cent in 1994 to $370 million.It is on a prospective 1993 PE of 5.4 and 3.3 in 1994.

Among the industrials Mr Faure recommended electronics company Varitronix, machine tool and semiconductor maker ASM along with circuit and lead frame board maker QPL.

At SG Warburg Securities, Danny Truel was recommending another local bank play Union Bank of Hongkong which is 68 per cent owned by mainland investor China Merchants.

Among the industrials he liked car accessories and antenna maker Innovative and the largest injection mould producer in Hongkong Chen Hsong.

Brian Parker at Kim Eng Securities is recommending media stocks as their advertising revenues tend to be directly correlated to domestic economic and consumer demand growth.

He also likes the stock that institutional brokers love to hate, Chinese Estates.