Hong Kong shares fall on telecoms, China down on weak manufacturing

Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:47am EDT

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By Natalie Thomas

BEIJING, April 23 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares eased on Wednesday, hurt by a sell-off in telecoms shares after the mainland's biggest carrier China Mobile posted its third straight quarterly decline in profits.

Shares on the mainland were also hit by a preliminary survey showing manufacturing activity contracted for a fourth straight month in April, while the spectre of more listings also unnerved investors.

By midday, the Hang Seng Index was down 0.72 percent at 22,565.89 points. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong dropped 1.1 percent.

The CSI300 index of the largest Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings was down 0.3 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.5 percent at 2,063.57 points.

China Mobile Ltd shares fell 2.5 percent after the company posted another quarterly profit decline, with this quarter's figure the lowest in five years, as messaging apps continue to eat away at its core revenue.

China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd, the country's No.2 mobile service provider, also saw its shares take a hit on the news, losing 2.3 percent by the lunch break.

As traditional communications shares fell, shares in Tencent , the originator of Wechat, a popular messaging app responsible in part for the decline in profits at China Mobile, gained 1.9 percent.

The stock was boosted by a rally on the Nasdaq index overnight in the United States as technology stocks clawed back losses from the sell-off in previous few weeks.

"That's given confidence that technology stocks might be able to stabilise at the current level," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities Vice President for equity sales in Hong Kong.

Shares in Haitong International Securities Group Ltd tumbled 8.6 percent, its biggest fall in over 2-1/2 years, after the brokerage announced plans for a $413 mln rights issue to strengthen its capital base.

Mainland shares dipped into negative territory after the HSBC/Markit flash Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) ticked up to 48.3 in April, an improvement on March's final reading of 48.0, but still below the 50 line separating expansion from contraction.

Meanwhile, China's regulator posted draft IPO prospectuses of a further 19 companies on its website on Tuesday night, raising concerns new listings may lead to funds being diverted from existing companies into the new stocks. The new batch paves the way for a total of 65 firms to launch IPOs.

Shanghai's Free Trade Zone stocks saw some of the biggest losses, as investors locked in gains from the previous day's trade after the city's municipal government published new regulations aimed at facilitating commodities trading in the zone.

Shanghai Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone Development Co Ltd , the biggest gainer on Tuesday, contracted 3.1 percent and Shanghai Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone Development Co Ltd lost 2.5 percent. Shanghai International Port Group Ltd was down 2.6 percent. (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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