Locally listed companies are increasingly missing Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing's deadline to report their annual results this year. Accountants blame the exchange's recent amendments, which shortened the deadline for annual reporting from five months to four months after the end of the financial year. After the rule became effective from July last year, 16 companies with their financial year ending on December 31, failed to meet the four-month deadline on April 30 this year, compared with 11 last year, when the five-month rule was still in force. Such delays increased among companies with their financial year ending on March 31. These companies account for about 30 per cent of the nearly 700 listed firms in Hong Kong. Twenty-two of such companies missed their deadline on July 31, doubling from a year ago. The latest include investment company Regent Pacific, ceramic tiles maker Interform, electronics maker Cedar Base and Internet company Sino-I.com. Some market watchers said the increasing non-compliance might suggest that many companies still were not capable of preparing financial reports in as short a period as four months. However, David Sun Tak-kei, vice-chairman of Hong Kong Society of Accountants, said: 'I would take a positive attitude to the matter.' Despite the increased delays, about 90 per cent of locally listed companies were capable of complying with the new rule, Mr Sun said. He said compared with requirements of some markets, Hong Kong's were not that stringent. In the United States, listed firms are required to release their annual results within three months, Mr Sun said. While officially having missed the deadline, some companies disclosed an unaudited result. For example, freight forwarder E-Life on Tuesday - the last day of the four-month deadline for results to March 31 - released a result showing a 75 per cent loss deduction to HK$20.78 million last year. However, it also revealed that the financial statement might be qualified by the firm's auditor. Auditors usually give qualified opinions when they have doubts about the given financial data. Again, big discrepancies between audited and unaudited results happened in some cases. For example, mainland property investor Nam Fong in May posted a loss of HK$1.11 billion in its result for 1999, which had been delayed for one and a half years. The audited figure was almost four times the unaudited amount of a HK$280.4 million loss for the same year which was announced previously.