Most Hong Kong companies now support the government's revised corporate rescue bill, improving the chances of the bill being passed by legislators next year, a survey by Ernst & Young has found. According to the survey of 3,000 companies, 83.7 per cent support the introduction of the bill, which, if passed, will give troubled companies a six-month grace period to find a white knight before creditors can apply to wind them up. Ernst & Young insolvency division managing director Kenneth Yeo Boon Ann said the positive reaction from the business community would improve the bill's chances of being passed by legislators next year. 'This will be good news for Hong Kong as it definitely needs to introduce the corporate rescue law,' Mr Yeo said. 'The US, Britain, Germany, Australia, Canada and Japan all have corporate rescue legislation. Hong Kong should match the international trend to maintain [its status as] a major international financial centre.' The corporate rescue bill was first introduced to the Legislative Council in 1996. However, it has been withdrawn, modified and undergone public consultation several times in the past seven years. The last time it was introduced to the council, the bill was abandoned as companies and professionals said it would not work because it required firms to pay employees their wages and entitlements before seeking a rescue plan. Mr Yeo said the latest proposal, still the subject of public consultation, was more acceptable as it capped a payment of $278,500 per employee for companies to put aside before they could enter a corporate rescue plan. The survey also showed that 16.6 per cent of companies' profits had been significantly affected by bad debt, which could explain their support for the bill, Mr Yeo said. Eighty per cent of the firms surveyed said they had recovered nothing from debtors. Among the respondents who were lucky enough to recoup some bad debts, the average recovery rate was just 36 per cent. Of the respondents, 14.8 per cent said the bad debts were related to mainland business. Ernst & Young manager Paul Mitchell said the bad debts related to China would rise because of the increased trade links between Hong Kong and the mainland.