HONG KONG, Jan 21 Hong Kong shares could start weaker on Monday, slipping from a 19-1/2 month high with corporate earnings coming back into focus after a series of profit warnings from Chinese companies over the weekend. China's second-largest telecom equipment maker, ZTE Corp. , warned of a net loss of up to 2.9 billion yuan ($466.58 million) for 2012 due to non-renewed contracts and project delays. Last Friday, the Hang Seng Index gained 1.1 percent at 23,601.8, its highest since June 1, 2011. Gains on Friday covered the gap on the chart that opened between June 1 and 2, 2011, something the benchmark has struggled to do since the start of the year. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei was down 0.7 percent, while South Korea's KOSPI was down 0.5 percent at 0048 GMT. FACTORS TO WATCH: * Oman has awarded Hong Kong's Hutchinson Whampoa a 50 million rial ($130 million) contract to build and operate a port terminal in the northern industrial city of Sohar, a statement from Port of Sohar said on Saturday. * China Minsheng Bank's net profit rose 34.5 percent last year to 37.56 billion yuan ($6.04 billion), the lender said in a preliminary earning report filed to the Shanghai stock exchange on Saturday. * China Vanke Co Ltd, the country's largest property developer by revenue, plans to move trading of its foreign currency shares to Hong Kong from Shenzen, joining an exit from the mainland's moribund B-share market. * HSBC Holdings Plc agreed to pay $249 million to end a case-by-case review of past foreclosures in the U.S., regulators announced on Friday. * China Shipping Container Lines Co Ltd (CSCL) said on Friday that it expects to post a net profit of 520 million yuan ($83.7 million) for 2012 as the container shipping market improved. This compared with a net loss of 2.74 billion in 2011. * South African power utility Eskom has withdrawn its objections to commodities trader Glencore's takeover of miner Xstrata, removing one of the potential hurdles to the $33 billion deal. * Central China Real Estate Ltd said it proposed to issue U.S. dollar denominated senior notes raising proceeds to fund property projects and to repay debt.* Powerlong Real Estate Holdings Ltd said it would issue $250 million 11.25 percent senior notes due 2018 raising capital to repay debt.* Brighttoil Petroleum (Holdings) Ltd said National Development and Reform Commission has approved the overall development plan for the Tuzi Gas Field on December 31, 2012. Located in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the Tuzi Gas Field has cumulative gas extraction of 14.1 billion cubic metres in a production period of 20 years.* GOME Electrical Appliances Holding Ltd said the retail outlets operating under the brand of "GOME" in Hong Kong do not form part of the group and the operations and results of the Hong Kong stores will not have any impact on the operation and financial position of the group.* Chinese sports brand 361 Degrees International Ltd said it estimated its profit for 2012 to decrease by about 40 percent as compared to 2011, as a high inventory level and retail discounting pressure weighed on performance and led to a decrease in sales volume, pressure on gross profit margin and higher selling expenses.* Department stores operator PCD Stores (Group) Ltd said it expected to record a notable decrease in 2012 net profit due to an increase in the depreciation and amortization expenses and operating expenses, a decrease in the management consultancy service income and an increase in employee benefits expenses.(Reporting by Clement Tan and Donny Kwok; Editing by Stephen Coates)
The Pentagon releases photographs linked to allegations of abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.