LEADING the spree of Hong Kong banks' 1993 result announcements, Bank of East Asia (BEA) surprised the market yesterday by reporting a 46.8 per cent profit jump, taking it through the $1 billion level. The $1.006 billion consolidated profit has set the market abuzz with speculation on the driving forces behind the bank's performance, considered out of step with forecast industry growth of 20 to 30 per cent. Reasons posed by analysts ranged from transfers from its inner reserves to realising some of its longer-term investments and suppressing its half-year result in order to boost the year-end performance. Earning per share rose 30.59 per cent from the adjusted figure of $1.34 to $1.75. Final dividend per share was 62.5 cents, up from 43.8 cents last year. A one-for-four share bonus and a cash bonus of 10 cents a share were declared to mark the bank's 75th anniversary. Coupled with the interim dividend of 27.5 cents, the total payout for the year will be $1, an increase of 50 per cent from the 66.7 cents last year. BEA general manager Chan Kay-cheung attributed the strong profit increase to growth in all major businesses, including fee income which recorded an inflation-matching surge. He denied manipulation of inner reserves to paint a rosy picture, saying that the Monetary Authority would not allow such transfers. One analyst suggested the bank might have sold some of its long-term equity investments to push up the result. ''The high profile of the management in celebrating the bank's 75th anniversary means it will not be satisfied just to have 20 or 30 per cent growth. A better figure is needed,'' said DBS Securities associate director Tony Liu, whose original forecast for the bank was 60 per cent profit growth. Non-banking profit reported a 17.7 per cent jump from $612.12 million to $720.65 million, believed to be generated from its life insurance subsidiary Aetna and its merchant banking venture Oakreed Financial Services. ''Both deposits and loans recorded a faster pace of growth . . . Local banks were also offering higher interest rates to compete for longer-term, large-sum Hong Kong dollar deposits,'' the bank's announcement said. As tight mortgage policies slowed the growth of property-related loans, banks turned to expanding short-term lending to traders, manufacturers and financial investors. The bank forecast narrower interest margins this year due to a gradual rise in funding costs. Mr Chan said competition for deposits and loans would make this year much tougher. ''Besides, the report by the Consumer Council which attacks the interest-rate agreement has created the uncertainty of whether the agreement will stay,'' he said. The bank recently acquired a 35 per cent shareholding in AEA Development Corp, a merchant bank in the Philippines, at a cost of about 57.1 million Philippine pesos (about HK$16.38 million). ''Apart from merchant banking business, we will also be doing trade finance and stockbroking. Not only do we want to serve the trade between Hong Kong and the Philippines, but also the Chinese living there,'' Mr Chan said. Construction work for the bank's Kennedy Town centre will be completed by mid-year, giving the bank a 17-storey office and a 34-storey residential tower with a two-storey shopping podium. Analysts are forecasting an extra gain of $124 million from the sale of the residential tower.