The Asian turmoil has given the Hong Kong market the impetus to strengthen itself by improving standards of corporate governance, a conference has been told. Although many companies had been badly hit, the crisis offered an opportunity for the market to move ahead, said Hong Kong Society of Accountants (HKSA) corporate governance committee chairman Edward Chow Kwong-fai. 'It is exactly the right time,' Mr Chow told a forum on corporate governance at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology yesterday. He warned the financial turmoil could return if companies failed to improve corporate governance. 'History repeats itself,' Mr Chow said. Hong Kong Society of Financial Analysts secretary James Soutar complained the requirements for financial disclosure by Hong Kong companies were below international standards. He said the profit and loss account provided too little information about a company's business, which made it difficult for analysts and investors to tell what it was actually doing. He cited retail concern Dickson Concepts as a 'bad' example in terms of financial disclosure. Mr Soutar suggested Hong Kong companies should report profit and loss, balance sheet and cash-flow accounts at least twice a year. This would give investors early warning if anything went wrong, he said. At the moment, companies are required to publish only an unaudited profit and loss account at the interim stage. Mr Chow said the HKSA was also studying whether listed companies should be required to set up remuneration committees to review directors' salaries. The society's corporate governance committee had set up a remuneration committee to examine the issue, he said. The move comes amid concern over high pay awards made by numerous companies to directors despite poor financial results. Earlier this year, the stock exchange carried out a consultation exercise on tightening financial disclosure requirements. Lammy Lee, company secretary of Orient Overseas International, agreed corporate governance needed improvement but warned regulators not to move from one extreme to another. 'Disclosure is necessary . . . but not in a way to kill the creativeness of companies,' she said. However, Mr Soutar said better corporate governance and disclosure would save management from having to respond to rumours, as they would be harder to spread. He said better corporate governance and disclosure would boost confidence in Hong Kong companies.