Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 11 News List

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STAFF WRITER WITH AGENCIES

Factory closures jump 79%

Factory closures jumped by almost four-fifths last month as export growth started to falter amid the SARS epidemic.

Factory closures rose 79 percent to 468 last month from 262 a year earlier, according to data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs. New factory registrations rose 22 percent to 463.

Half of the 509,000 people out of work in March had lost their jobs as a result of business closures or cutbacks, according to government statistics.

In the first four months, factory closures rose 50 percent to 1469 from 978 in the same period a year earlier. New factory registrations rose 15 percent to 945 from 1224 a year earlier.

Chi Mei to pay first dividend

Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp (奇美電子), a marker of computer and TV flat-screen panels, agreed yesterday to pay its first dividend since it was listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange last year.

Shareholders at Chi Mei ratified a dividend in stock form of NT$1.2 per share for last year at the company's first annual general meeting, which was held yesterday. At the meeting, shareholders also agreed to issue a further 500 million shares to fund expansion at the company which plans to construct a more efficient production facility this year to cut costs.

Last year, Chi Mei shipped almost 5 million panels, netting NT$4.5 billion in income. The company plans to sell 8 million panels this year.

SARS hurts motherboard sales

The SARS outbreak is hurting sales at domestic suppliers of personal-computer motherboards because demand has fallen in China, a local newspaper said, citing unidentified officials at the companies.

Taiwanese makers of motherboards will probably fail to meet their own second-quarter expectations because Chinese are staying home to avoid contracting SARS, the report said.

Sales last month at Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦) and closest rivals Micro-Star International Co (微星), Elitegroup Computer Systems Co (精英電腦) and Gigabyte Technology Co (技嘉科技) will fall by more than 15 percent from the previous month, the report said.

Taiwanesse motherboard makers sell as much as a fifth of output in China to companies and people who assemble non-branded PCs. They also account for about three-quarters of the world's production.

BenQ chief slams government

Lee Kun-yao (李焜耀), chairman of BenQ Corp (明基電通), the country's largest mobile-phone maker, criticized the government for responding too slowly to the spread of SARS, a local newspaper reported.

The bureaucracy's reaction to SARS as it spread in Asia was "disorganized" and the execution of administrative orders was "stupid and slow," the paper quoted Lee as saying.

BenQ is still optimistic that demand for personal computer monitors and other PC components that the company makes will improve in the second half as companies and consumers replace equipment they've had for three years and more, the report said.

NT dollar hits 10-week high

The New Taiwan dollar had its highest close in almost 10 weeks after comments from US Secretary of the Treasury John Snow sent the US currency down, boosting the local currency and others in Asia.

The New Taiwan dollar yesterday rose NT$0.080 to close at NT$34.628 against the greenback on the Taipei foreign exchange market. Turnover was US$750 million.

"SARS in Taiwan is still spreading, so it'll still affect the NT dollar, preventing it from strengthening more," said Chris Lin, a trader at Chang Hwa Commercial Bank (彰化銀行).

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