Last updated at 5.04pm: Workers at banking giant HSBC are counting on a pay rise early next year - a move that be another sign of the reviving local economy. Rumours are rife around the company - one of Hong Kong's largest private-sector employers - that an end to a two-year pay freeze will follow the increase in profits reported earlier this year. HSBC's senior external relations manager Gareth Hewett refused to comment on the rumours, saying that no official statement had been released. ''If it is true we will announce it,'' he said. However a senior bank staff told SCMP.com: ''I'm pretty sure there will be a pay rise announcement by the beginning of next year. ''There have been a lot of rumours about the percentage of the pay rise since the chairman talked about it. I'm not so sure about the two-to-three per cent rumour but I think everything will happen in due time.'' A pay increase by HSBC would be seen as an influential move likely to herald salary increases for other large corporations as well as possibly for civil servants as the Government surveys the private sector before deciding on wage adjustments for its own staff. ''The Hong Kong economy is not up to 1996 and 1997 highs but when you have over eight per cent estimated economic growth you can't call it a recession,'' said economics professor of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Lui Ting-ming. ''When there is economic growth, big corporations and the Government usually raise wages [to keep workers],'' he added. HSBC salary increases have previously been used by the Civil Service Bureau to assess civil servants' pay. However a bureau spokesman said it was too early to comment, as the list for 2000-2001 was still being compiled. Professor Lui said if HSBC raised wages by two to three per cent, the Government might increase civil servants' pay by one per cent. Earlier this month Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa alluded to this possibility in his policy address. ''In recent months, we have heard the encouraging news that many companies have started to give their employees a pay rise. This should soon show up as a trend. For salaried workers, next year will be a better year,'' Mr Tung said. However, Professor Lui warned that salary increases may be limited to large corporations and civil servants as a result of increased contributions employers must make for the Mandatory Provident Fund. In December 1998, faced with unstable economic conditions, HSBC decided to implement a one-year pay freeze on its 13,500 employees to save some $200 million. By December of the following year a one-off cash payout equivalent to one per cent of annual salaries for staff who performed well was implemented. The payout was to replace the 13-month salary system over a three-year timetable. In 2000 salaries remained unchanged for a second consecutive year but first-half profits for the global parent soared 31 per cent this year and HongkongBank's margins were also up.