Around the World's Markets: Hong Kong

HONG KONG shares closed after one of the territory's largest banks said bad debts in China contributed to a 56 per cent drop in profits last year.

The Hang Seng index closed down 96.83 points at 9,502.72 in the wake of the Bank of East Asia's profit figures. Bank of East Asia - one of the first major banks to report 1998 earnings - said profits fell to $120m, and bad debt write-offs totalled $192m. Analysts said BEA's debt provisions confirmed problems of corporate bad loans in China.