Wake up earlier? OK, no problem. A sandwich for lunch? No way! That seems to be the consensus of the 400-plus small brokerage houses that are being consulted on the stock exchange's plan to extend trading hours. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia will today meet the seven brokerage bodies about the plan. A formal consultation paper will be released in October. But after the painful experience of the penny stocks fiasco in 2002, the stock exchange has been acting wisely by doing some 'soft' consultation before the real thing. In July 2002 the exchange's consultation paper on delisting penny stocks caused the local market's capitalisation to plummet by HK$10 billion in a single day. Industry insiders have told White Collar that the brokerage community knows that Hong Kong - one of the world's shortest international trading financial markets - needs to be brought into line with global trends. The stock exchange only opens for four hours a day. By contrast the London, New York and European markets trade for 61/2 to 8 hours a day. Attempts have been made in the past to extend trading hours. In 2001 there was a plan to open 11 hours a day. That was met with stiff opposition, so Li's relatively moderate proposal is to trade for 51/2 hours a day. That will include opening the market 30 minutes earlier, at 9.30am, and cutting short the two-hour lunch break to one hour, from 12 to 1pm. Closing time will remain unchanged. Brokers say they support starting at 9.30am, to match the mainland market. But they appear bitterly opposed to cutting lunch to one hour. A better alternative, they argue, would be to reduce it by 30 minutes and have lunch between noon and 1.30 pm. That would match Shanghai and Shenzhen. 'The lunch break is not just for pleasure but to allow time for companies to release corporate news or results to the market. Brokers also use the break to communicate with companies and clients. One hour is just too short to digest all that news,' said Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, chairman of the Hong Kong Securities Professionals Association. So hold the sandwich. Last week's column calling on the regulator to look at the issue of prolonged share suspensions appears to have hit a nerve. One broker complained about the suspension of Zhejiang Glass Company since May. The reason given for the extended suspension was the delayed release of its results announcement last year. The broker has asked the exchange several times about why the suspension has gone on so long but has not received an answer. Retail investor Dayal Belani says Styland Holdings has been suspended since April 2004. The suspension has frozen his money and he has to pay margin interest on it. 'I would like to know when I will get the dividend they have declared. This is telling us the food is on the plate but you cannot eat it even you are hungry,' Belani said. Belani is not alone. In May 2008 about 200 Styland investors protested at HKEx over why it had rejected the company's application to resume trading 11 times. The exchange said there were serious regulatory concerns over alleged misconduct by Styland and four former and existing directors in 2002 and 2003. The Securities and Futures Commission in September 2008 applied to the High Court to ban Styland Holdings' former chairman and three other former and current directors, and ordered them to pay compensation for the company's losses stemming from their alleged misconduct. But two years after the SFC action, the shares remain suspended and Belani has still received no compensation. We understand the regulatory action is aimed at protecting investors, but to suspend a share from trading for more than six years is not good news for shareholders who have their money tied up for such a long time. As we said last week, something should be done to address the problem.