* CSI300 +0.4 pct; SSEC +0.2 pct; HSI +1.1 pct
* Fresh signs insurers are expanding stock portfolios
* Small caps under pressure as share sale ban expires soon
SHANGHAI, Dec 23 (Reuters) - China’s major stock indexes rose on Wednesday, amid fresh signs that cash-rich insurers were on a shopping spree at the year-end, jostling to buy stakes in blue chip companies.
Hong Kong stocks were also upbeat, aided by strength on Wall Street, and a sharp rebound in energy shares after oil bounced off 11-year lows.
The blue-chip CSI300 index rose 0.4 percent, to 3,892.25 points by the lunch break, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.2 percent, to 3,657.79 points.
Traders said interest in blue chips has been rekindled by growing evidence that yield-seeking insurers were aggressively hunting for modestly-valued industry leaders.
“Insurers’ purchases have put blue chips into the market’s spot light,” said David Dai, Shanghai-based investor director at Nanhai Fund Management Co.
He added that small-caps were relatively expensive now and would be under heavier selling pressure in early January, when a six-month share sale ban by major shareholders - introduced during the summer market rout - expires.
In the latest twist to the bidding war for control of Chinese developer China Vanke Co , exchange filings disclosed late on Tuesday showed that Anbang Insurance Group had raised its stake in Vanke to 7.01 percent, before Vanke shares were suspended last Friday.
Previously, another insurance group, Shenzhen Jushenghua Co, had acquired more than a 20 percent stake in Vanke, becoming its biggest shareholder, and prompting Vanke’s management to initiate a restructuring in an apparent effort to wrestle for control of the company.
Also late on Tuesday, Chang Chun Eurasia Group said its top shareholder, Changchun Automobile Town Commercial, had recently increased shares in the company, and may continue to do so.
The announcement came a day after disclosure that Anbang also raised its shareholding in Eurasia to 10 percent as of Dec. 18, fuelling speculation of another bidding war for board room control, boosting Eurasia shares by 10 percent to a record high.
In December alone, Anbang had spent more than 30 billion yuan buying stocks, according to calculation by the China Securities Journal.
Investors continued to bet on the next acquisition target, boosting shares in companies partially owned by insurers, such as Dashang, and Tongrentang.
Most blue chip sectors rose, but Shenzhen’s start-up board ChiNext fell 0.7 percent.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index added 1.1 percent, to 22,064.01 points, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index gained 1.7 percent, to 9,897.95.
The market was bolstered by index heavyweights and oil giants PetroChina, CNOOC and Sinopec , which rose sharply after a rebound in oil prices.
Reporting by Samuel Shen and Nathaniel Taplin; Editing by Jacqueline Wong