* HSI -0.1 pct, H-shares -0.3 pct, CSI300 +0.2 pct
* China flash PMI briefly lifts markets in early trade
* A-share premium over H-shares at 6-mth high
* Tencent hit by downgrades despite in-line earnings
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, March 21 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares slipped in weak Thursday trade ahead of a string of corporate earnings while broker downgrades pushed down Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings, which fell in spite of producing results that met expectations.
The CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen listings closed up 0.2 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3 percent. For both, this was their third-straight daily gain and helped consolidate strong Wednesday gains in Shanghai volume that stayed above average.
The Hang Seng Index slipped 0.1 percent, while the China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong shed 0.3 percent. For both, this was their fourth loss in five days.
The A-share outperformance on the day helped the Hang Seng Index A/H premium index hit its highest close since mid-September, suggesting the premium for onshore shares over their offshore peers is at its widest in six months.
Shares of Tencent finished off intra-day lows, but down 4 percent at its lowest close since Dec. 31, hurt by downgrades from Deutsche Bank and CLSA despite posting 2012 earnings late on Wednesday that were in line with expectations.
DB analysts downgraded Tencent from “buy” to “hold” while trimming their target price for its stock by 8 percent, citing near-term margin pressures from mobile and e-commerce initiatives that would bear fruit in the longer term.
“Tencent’s stock price was obviously hurt by those downgrades today, but there were some people who were buying on dips,” said Alex Wong, Ample Finance’s director of asset management.
“There might be some short-term hiccups with the company’s growth, but there are not many Chinese companies with a favourable long-term growth story like Tencent,” Wong added.
Thursday’s losses trimmed Tencent’s gain on the year to 1.4 percent, compared with the Hang Seng Index’s 1.9 percent slide. In 2012, Tencent surged 59 percent while the index rose 23 percent.
A flurry of bellwether Chinese companies were due to post corporate earnings after markets closed on Thursday. According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, 40 percent of Hong Kong-listed companies have reported their 2012 final results so far, with 47 percent missing expectations.
Of the 59 percent of companies listed in the mainland that have reported, 72 percent have missed market estimates, according to StarMine data.
Shares of China’s largest oil producer Petrochina slipped 0.6 percent in Hong Kong and 0.2 percent in Shanghai ahead of its 2012 final earnings, which came in below market expectation after markets closed.
Petrochina reported a steeper-than-expected 13.3 percent slide in 2012 net profit to 115.3 billion yuan ($18.6 billion), due in part to ballooning losses at its natural gas import business. In 2013, its shares are down 5.5 percent in Hong Kong and 1.1 percent in Shanghai.
China Unicom, the country’s second-largest mobile carrier, posted a 68 percent growth in 2012 net profit from a year earlier that slightly beat market expectations. Its Hong Kong shares declined 1.7 percent on the day, to its lowest since July, and are down more than 16 percent on the year.
Global supply chain manager Li & Fung climbed 1.2 percent before posting 2012 net profit that underwhelmed market expectations. Down nearly 23 percent on the year, Li & Fung was trading at a 25 percent discount to its historical median forward 12-month earnings multiple, according to StarMine.