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Renminbi's value climbs while red chips tumble


WHILE the renminbi's value gained strongly on the Shanghai swap market yesterday, following Zhu Rongji's appointment as central bank governor, red-chip shares plunged in Hongkong.

China-backed stock prices fell up to 20 per cent as analysts attempted to assess the impact of the 16-point austerity plan leaked in Hongkong during the weekend.

The stocks plunged on fears that mainland enterprises would be forced to send capital back to China to support the Chinese currency, and stop their empire-building on the Hongkong exchange.

Among the losers were Lolliman Holdings, now under the control of an offshoot of China International Trust and Investment Corp. Lolliman lost 34.7 per cent, collapsing from $1.73 to $1.13.

''We had expected that this would happen - the question was when,'' said Michael Ng Wai-ming, assistant general manager at Sassoon Securities.

''Most of them have no fundamentals. Most of them have no growth and are just losing money.'' Many stocks including Tung Wing Steel, Santai Manufacturing, Hongkong Worsted Mills and Kader Investment collapsed after the weekend's news.

Tung Wing steel fell 28.6 per cent - $1 - to $2.50, leaving red-chip enthusiasts who bought at the year's high of $5.50 with just 45 per cent of their original investment.

But while the red chips were falling, the local rates for the renminbi soared.

The money exchanges in Hongkong rapidly reflected the rise in Shanghai. The centre in Mongkok was trading 105 yuan to HK$100 yesterday, compared with last Wednesday's rate of 134 yuan to $100.

Centre manager Tse Kwok-fai said renminbi holders were not selling, hoping the currency's value would rise further, while a surge of local business people wanted to swap Hongkong dollars.

Although there are fears that the worsening financial situation in China will result in a further decline in the renminbi rate, some analysts in Hongkong were predicting continuing short-term strength.

''The Chinese Government obviously has produced a series of measures to create a big demand for the yuan in the market,'' said Standard Chartered Bank senior economist Mak Nak-keung.

The proposals to call in loans diverted to speculative schemes would squeeze liquidity, he said, but also suggested official intervention in the market by the authorities.