BACKS have been slapped, banquets have been eaten, and who knows what palms have been greased but now the time is coming to judge the winners of the great H-share contest - Round Two. The courting process has been long and expensive for the bankers involved yet, according to our sources, a decision has been made that would leave the British merchant banks off the winners' rostrum. Last week a meeting was taking place across the border in Foshan which will go a long way in deciding which companies will be mandated to underwrite the next batch. At that meeting, officials from the China Securities and Regulatory Commission (CSRC) briefed company directors from the gang of 22 in a sort of survivors' guide to foreign stock markets. It was apparently made clear to the assembled directors that things could be tricky for them in the future if they opted for a British house. WHEN Financial Secretary Sir Hamish Macleod announced in the Budget that an amendment would be made to the Stamp Duty Ordinance, the intention was to free up the short selling business. However, since he is mucking around with the ordinance, there is another little amendment that those with an eye for legal detail think he can make. Although an esoteric point of law, there is some doubt that the shares of any listed company which is incorporated outside Hong Kong needs to have stamp duty charged on them when traded. Considering that Paul Phoenix, the deputy head of the Stock Exchange, reckoned this would account for about half of all stock traded in Hong Kong, it is something of a horrible thought for the Government, which earns big bucks from the tax. According to the ordinance, the Government has the right to tax what is termed ''Hong Kong registered stock'', so distinguishing it from Hong Kong company stock which is registered for trading in another county - mainly Britain. In the current legislation, the definition of Hong Kong-registered stock reads: ''Stock the transfer of which is required to be registered in Hong Kong.'' The ambiguity lies with the word ''required'', which refers to the only general register of stocks maintained in Hong Kong - that being the stock exchange's. The stock exchange keeps a register of transactions as part of its listing rules, but according to lawyers, its register cannot be considered a requirement when framing legislation. The upshot is that any investor who wanted to avoid paying stamp duty would probably be on a firm legal footing.