THE move of image-builder John Hung to World International heralds a shake-up of the group's profile and the re-emergence of what was one of Hongkong's best-known companies - Wheelock Marden. An executive re-shuffle this week will lead to the resurrection of Wheelock Marden & Company, which was once as high profile as Inchcape, Jardine and Hutchison are today. Mr Hung, executive director of Wharf Holdings, a sister company of World, will take on the post of managing director at Wheelock Marden. He will also become an executive director of World, while retaining his directorship at Wharf at a non-executive level. Mr Hung has been given much of the credit for transforming Wharf Holding's image from sleeping giant to one of Hongkong's most high-profile companies after spending much of the last two years selling the company's concept to institutions around the world. Some bankers have called Mr Hung a hype merchant, others say the marketing of Wharf has been a coup. What is certain, though, is that Wharf chairman Peter Woo thinks the same can be done for World International, and at the same time, Wheelock Marden. The job though goes further than coporate communications. Mr Hung is taking on corporate development at World, while Wharf finance director Edward Cheng will take over his previous duties. World International is seen by analysts as basically being two different companies. Firstly, it holds 70 per cent of Wharf, giving investors another avenue to buy into the group. Secondly, it is a property company which, in the words of one analyst, ''has come a long way in the last few years, but is still in the second division compared to companies such as Sun Hung Kai and Cheung Kong.'' There is a third part of World, however, which usually only gets a mention when it is referred to as the group's holding arm containing its 66-per cent stake in up-market retailer Lane Crawford. That is the only asset of Wheelock Marden that brokers say is worth talking about. It is a far cry from the company's hey day, when it oversaw an empire stretching from Hongkong to Shanghai, and beyond. ''Wheelock Marden has not been a trading force for some time, but has a big name not only in Hongkong but in Shanghai,'' said Mr Hung, who added that he is already putting a management team in place to resurrect the company. ''There is absolutely no reason why it can't be strong again, if we are putting a good team together,'' he said. ''It can be mobilised and revitalised very substantially. I think there is a great deal of scope, particularly in China . . . [but] it needs a bit of a kick,'' Mr Hung said. ''We can do a lot of things, particularly in the China market on the trading side,'' he added. The firm was started by George Marden and a Canadian businessman, but only really started to take off when Mr Marden teamed up with his son, John. At the height of the company's success, it was in everything from property, retail trading, bullion and share dealing. It was considered to be one of the ''big four'', alongside Swire, Hutchison and Jardine Matheson - the later two of which once fought a takeover battle for the firm. But like Hutchison, it attracted the eye of successful local businessmen. In 1985, Sir Y. K. Pao fought for control of the company with a Singaporean tycoon after the then chairman John Marden sold his family's interest. Sir Y. K. eventually won the battle and that year became chairman. Since then, Wheelock Marden's assets, which in 1982 were worth $6.6 billion, have been absorbed into the World/Wharf group, and, after more recent restructuring, has been left with little of its former glory, apart from Lane Crawford. Lane Crawford has had a hard time recently, with Hongkong's retail sector suffering from the Gulf War in 1991 and Tiananmen Square in 1989. Recession and tighter margins from higher rents have not helped. However, the last set of results indicated that the company maybe turning around, posting an almost 21 per cent increase in profits for the six month period to September 1992.It has plans to expand into China, but, given the recent scare over the mainland's economy, those plans are likely to be put on hold. ''I believe that we are beginning to see a turnaround in Lane Crawford. There was a profit turnaround last year and I think we are going from strength to strength with the Singapore opening,'' said Mr Hung, referring to the group's first store in the republic. There is concern there however that stiffer competition may give Lane Crawford a harder time than expected. But it is to World that investors will look when Mr Hung takes over the corporate image department. If World can attract as much interest from international investors as Wharf has, then its property portfolio could improve substantially. World was one of the most aggressive buyers at government land auctions last year, spending $4.56 billion. Analysts, however, still see it as a lower grade property firm. Wheelock Marden has already got analysts guessing. ''I could see World turning it back into a big trading company, something like Inchcape or Jardine Pacific,'' said one analyst, who added that the capital outlays of setting up a trading arm are minimal. ''It's mainly down to contacts and expertise,'' he said.