SARS taking toll on stores
More than 90 percent of companies in the tourism industry and department-store business said they have been hard hit by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), according to an opinion poll of 129 department stores, shopping centers and amusement and recreation parks released yesterday.
About 30.23 percent of the respondents said their businesses had slid by 40 percent to 50 percent over the last two months.
The poll, conducted May 5 to May 7 by the Pan Asia Human Resource Corp (泛亞人力銀行), showed 18 percent of the respondents had witnessed a fall of 30 percent to 40 percent in turnover.
Those who suffered a business downturn 50 percent to 60 percent accounted for 11 percent of the respondents, compared with 10 percent who said their operations shrank by 60 percent to 70 percent and 12 percent who said their businesses had fallen by 70 percent to 80 percent, the poll said.
Loan extensions offered
The nation's financial institutions have agreed to extend loan roll-overs to SARS-hit companies for another year, Gary Tseng (曾國烈), director general of the Bureau of Monetary Affairs, said at a press conference yesterday. But the one-year extensions apply only to businesses whose borrowings are due by the end of this year and who had paid their interest and principle on schedule in February, Tseng said.
Farmers Bank gets new chief
The Ministry of Finance yesterday appointed Lin Peng-lang (林彭郎), president of Land Bank of China (土地銀行), to serve as chairman of the Farmers Bank of China (農民銀行), it said in a statement.
Chao Chieh-chien (趙捷謙), former chairman of Farmers Bank, will be taking the chairmanship post of Small and Medium Business Credit Guarantee Fund (中小企業信保基金), the ministry said.
Farmers Bank reported non-performing loan ratio at 13 percent in December and plans to reduce that figure to under 10 percent by the end of the year by writing off NT$6 billion problem assets, said executive vice president Chen Kao-chi (陳高吉).
The bank's president, Huang Chin-chi (黃清吉), has been detained on charges of bribery in connection with loans to a real estate developer. The bank claims that a large portion of the loans in question had been written off and the rest have been classified as non-accrual assets.
Oil searched halted by SARS
Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油) and Beijing-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corp (中國海洋石油), have indefinitely delayed a joint search for oil because of the outbreak of SARS, a Chinese-language newspaper reported yesterday.
The companies had planned to drill their first exploration well in the Tainan Basin by the end of last month, the paper said, citing an unidentified official at Chinese Petroleum.
Chinese Petroleum also postponed a plan to set up its first representative office in Beijing in the first half of the year, the paper said.
UMC sales rise sharply
Local chipmaker United Microelec-tronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) said yesterday that sales last month rose sharply on the back of strong growth in the personal computer and telecommunications sectors.
UMC's April sales rose 39.73 percent to NT$7.32 billion (US$210 million) from NT$5.24 billion a year ago. The figure was up 3.68 percent from March's NT$7.06 billion.
NT dollar loses ground
The New Taiwan dollar yesterday continued to lose ground against its US counterpart, dropping NT$0.056 to close at NT$34.775 on the Taipei foreign exchange market. Turnover was US$257 million.