Company transparency and corporate governance in the SAR has improved overall, according to the Hong Kong Society of Accountants. The society based its conclusion on the results of its annual Best Corporate Governance Disclosure Awards. Society president Andy Lee Shiu-chuen said the award winners and other companies who took part had shown high standards of corporate governance and disclosure. 'The award winners and the many companies which have joined the competition have adopted corporate governance standards on par with international standards,' he said. The three categories - Hang Seng Index (HSI) companies, non-HSI, and public sector/not-for-profit organisations - attracted 62 competitors. The number of entrants was up 15 per cent on last year. The three winners in the Hang Seng Index category were HSBC, CLP Holdings and Hysan Development. Kerry Properties, Hsin Chong Construction and Tai Fook Securities were the winners in the non-HSI category. Kerry Properties is part of Robert Kuok's Kerry Group, the largest shareholder in South China Morning Post (Holdings). In the public sector/not-for-profit-organisation category, the winners were Airport Authority Hong Kong, the Securities and Futures Commission and Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp. HSBC, for the second year, was named as overall winner of the grand award, because of the depth of disclosure in its annual report and high standard of corporate governance. While they did not not receive awards, MTR Corp and Hang Seng Bank received mention because of their high standards of disclosure. The competition forms part of the society's efforts to promote corporate governance and encourage companies to give more information to investors. A panel of judges including accountants, university professors, lawyers and regulators looked at the quality and quantity of information disclosed in the companies' annual reports for the year to March 31. They also looked at the quality of information provided on the companies' Web sites. Mr Lee said the overall standard had improved. Last year, the society declined to make all of the awards because some companies had not reached the international standards demanded by the judges. Kerry Properties was the only award winner in the non-HSI category last year, with two awards not given. In the public company category, the judges did not award a third prize. Mr Lee said an increasing number of listed companies went beyond the minimum legal and regulatory requirements. For example, many companies during the past financial year had established independent remuneration committees of non-executive directors to decide on salary recommendations for senior executives and directors, although not required to do so by law. Also, many companies had appointed more than the two non-executive directors required by the listing rules. 'Many of the participating companies have made improvements over the past year in providing more information about board operations and policies, related-party transactions, internal controls and areas such as community relations,' Mr Lee said. He said companies should improve in the areas of disclosing more information on board structure, the number of board meetings and the specific role of non-executive directors. The society also supported the SFC's proposal to ask all companies to report financial results every three months, instead of six. This would give investors more up-to-date information about companies. Michael Scales, corporation secretary of HSBC Holdings, said HSBC had always considered it important to give sufficient information to shareholders.