Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Business briefs

STAFF WRITER WITH AGENCIES

New round of trade talks set

Panama and Taiwan are set to hold a fourth round of negotiations on a free trade agreement, Panamanian officials involved in the talks said on Wednesday.

Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Meliton Arrocha said the talks, set to begin Monday, will take place in Miami, Florida and will broach issues such as market access, rules of origin, services and investment.

The previous round of talks, held in Panama in March, closed successfully after negotiators discussed financial services, exceptions, investments and customs procedures.

The two countries issued a joint statement last August to make talks aimed at a free trade agreement a priority. Imports of Taiwanese goods in Panama amount to US$25 million annually, while Panamanian exports to Taiwan are more than US$11 million.

NPL ratio drops

Domestic banks' non-performing loan (NPL) ratio fell to 8.6 percent at the end of March from 8.85 percent at the end of last year after they accelerated write-offs of bad loans, the central bank said in a statement released yesterday.

About NT$1.20 trillion (US$35 billion) of loans were classed as non-performing and under surveillance at the end of March, the central bank said. That compares with NT$1.25 trillion of troubled loans as of December.

Excluding loans at risk of default and under surveillance, the NPL ratio was little changed at 6.11 percent, the bank said.

Europe Day dinner canceled

The European Chamber of Com-merce Taipei (ECCT) decided yesterday to call off the 2003 Europe Day dinner scheduled for May 30, due to concerns over SARS.

"Both the government and many ECCT companies have encouraged their employees to avoid unnecessary meetings, particularly those with more than 100 participants," the ECCT said in a statement. "Given this and the uncertainty concerning the SARS situation, the directors decided that the prudent decision was to hold the Europe Day dinner later in the year, possibly in early fall."

The dinner commemorates the birth of the EU and usually draws around 400 government officials and business leaders.

SinoPac denies merger bid

SinoPac Holdings Co (建華金控), which has the second-highest percentage of overseas shareholders among domestic lenders, said it has no plan to seek approval next month on a reported merger with China Development Holding Corp (中華開發金控).

China Development may introduce a plan to take over SinoPac at its annual meeting on June 27 if it wins shareholder approval, a local newspaper reported earlier, citing no one.

SinoPac, which denied the report in a statement to the Taiwan Stock Exchange, has also scheduled its annual meeting for that day.

Pou Chen eyes Quanta Display

Pou Chen Corp (寶成), which makes sports shoes for Nike Inc, may invest in Quanta Display Inc (廣輝電子), a flat-panel display venture owned by Japan's Sharp Corp and Quanta Computer Inc (廣達電腦), a local newspaper reported.

Pou Chen, which bought debt sold by Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp (奇美電子) that's convertible into a 5 percent stake in Chi Mei, may buy some of the NT$4.1 billion (US$118 million) of new shares that Quanta Display plans to sell to help fund a new plant, the report said, citing unidentified Quanta Computer officials.

NT dollar gains ground

The New Taiwan dollar yesterday continued to gain ground against its US counterpart, rising NT$0.044 to close at NT$34.647 on the Taipei foreign exchange market. Turnover was US$519 million.

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