High valuation for Mannesmann spurs rush to buy sector heavyweights

Telecommunications and technology plays pushed Hong Kong shares up yesterday on the back of the takeover battle for German firm Mannesmann and the United States Nasdaq Stock Market's record highs.

The Hang Seng Index rose 211.93 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 15,285.03 on a turnover of $11.89 billion.

China Telecom soared 7.71 per cent to $37.70, driving the Hang Seng Index up 151 points.

Boosting the stock was the high valuation of cellular telephone operator Mannesmann in the hostile takeover bid by Britain's Vodafone AirTouch.

Delta Asia Securities research manager Ricky Tam Siu-hing said: 'This has made people increase their valuation of mobile phone companies.' Cable & Wireless HKT also benefited from the takeover battle. The stock pushed the index 59.8 points ahead as it added 5.18 per cent to $21.30.

South China Brokerage associate director Alan Pau said: 'People are chasing after shares in the telecoms and technology sectors.' However, Hutchison - which has been rallying because of its stake in Mannesmann - decreased 3.06 per cent to $94.75.

Asia Financial Securities research head James So said: 'The market saw a little profit-taking on Hutchison.' Beijing's expected entry into the World Trade Organisation was also spurring foreign telecommunications sector buying, brokers said.

CLP gained 2.72 per cent to $37.70 as investors sought to increase their exposure to the utility sector after HKT and China Telecom were reclassified as conglomerates.

As of yesterday, the two firms were switched from the Hang Seng utilities sub-index to the commerce and industry sub-index.

'As HKT and China Telecom have been switched to another sector some people may not want to be underweight on the utility sector,' Mr Tam said.

However, Hongkong Electric fell 1.61 per cent to $24.35 (Stock Split, Page 12).

Technology and Internet-related stocks also gained on the strength of the Nasdaq market and on the back of US-listed Corp's strength.

The opening up of the mainland Internet market under last week's WTO agreement with Washington is expected to create business opportunities for Hong Kong-based Internet companies.

E-New Media moved up 15.85 per cent to $2.375 and Stone Electronic - which has a stake in the portal - leapt 11.3 per cent to $3.20 on a turnover of $371.73 million. It was the seventh most active stock by trading value.

Mr Tam said: 'People think in the near term that Chinese Internet-related stocks will be good.' Investors tossed money at transport-related stocks in WTO-related trades.

China Southern Airlines jumped 6.38 per cent to $2 and China Eastern Airlines rose 4.62 per cent to $1.13. Shenzhen Expressway gained 3.9 per cent to $1.33.

Mr Pau said: 'For other sectors people are not so sure whether they will benefit from WTO but the transportation sector will benefit.' Brokers were divided as to the direction of the market this week with some expecting a consolidation after the extended rally while others felt the Hang Seng Index could continue up to 15,500 points.

'I'll be happy if the market holds 15,000,' Mr So said.