THE time is ripe for Hong Kong and Chinese companies to tap the US equity market, tapping US fund managers' thirst for high-return investments, says Regent Pacific group chairman Vincent Chan. Entering the US equity market has become a trend for both territory and mainland enterprises, taking advantage of the sluggish US economic growth, low interest rates, and fund managers' desire for higher returns, he said yesterday at a seminar at the Conrad Hotel to introduce the US equity market to the territory business and investment community. ''The net sales of mutual funds in the US last month was in excess of $12 billion, and 45 per cent of it was spent on funds investing in foreign stocks,'' he said. Lacking attractive investment outlets due to the low-interest environment, a lot of US pension-fund managers are courting high-growth companies outside the country. ''US equities are trading at roughly 20 price-earning multiples, whereas Hong Kong new issues are at seven only. They are much more attractive to US investors,'' he said. A foreign issuer can access the US market through a initial public offering, an underwritten placement or an American Depositary Receipt programme. ''The trade-off in choosing from these options is the amount of new capital raised and investor visibility, against issuer costs,'' managing director of H&Q Asia Pacific Daniel Carroll said. He cited the much-discussed new issue of Shanghai Petrochemical as an indication of the big appetite in the US for high-growth companies. ''While it is beyond doubt that the Hong Kong portion was not very well-received, there was a lot of demand in the US market,'' Mr Chan said. He said at present Regent Pacific is arranging initial public offerings in the US for two large Chinese enterprises. Companies which are likely to attract fund managers' attention are those with high growth potential and simple business plans, he said. Regarding the legal environment between Hong Kong and the US, Mr Chan said the American system places more emphasis on full disclosure. ''Its principle is to disclose all the likely risks in the business. Once the company divulges all the risk factors, the regulator will give no hassles,'' he said, drawing from his experience as financial adviser to the Great Wall ADR issue. It is the US Security and Exchange Commission's belief that the investor should make the ultimate investment decision knowing all the risks involved, he said. Chinese enterprises that have successfully listed in the New York Stock Exchange recently are China Tire Holdings - a wholly owned subsidiary of China Strategic Investment, Brilliance China, and C.P. Pokphand's motorcycle operations.