Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Tsung sprouts new wings

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The chairwoman of the Grand Hotel (圓山飯店), Christine Tsung (宗才怡), showed satisfactory performance as the former president of China Airlines Co (華航) in 2000, earning her a seat on the board of the nation's biggest air carrier, pundits said yesterday.

"It can't be denied that China Airlines began to turn a profit during her tenure, which makes her management contributions useful to the carrier's future privatization plan if she sits on the board," DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said yesterday in response to Tsung's appointment.

Tsung, who took the 51-year-old hotel's chairmanship last October, served as the carrier's president in July 2000.

She was later appointed to head the Ministry of Economic Affairs last February, becoming the nation's first female economics minister, but also the most short-tenured, spending only 48 days in office.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) yesterday confirmed that he has invited Tsung to sit on the carrier's 9-member board.

Tsung is expected to take up the seat left by Joseph Lu (呂桔誠), vice chairman of the Commission of National Corporations under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Lu is slated to take office as the president of the state-run Land Bank of Taiwan (土銀) beginning next Monday.

Lin is also the chairman of the quasi-governmental China Aviation Development Foundation (航發會), which owns a 71 percent stake in China Airlines. He said the foundation will hold its annual shareholders meeting tomorrow to approve Tsung's nomination.

Her appointment, however, immediately prompted media speculation that the government is paving the way for Tsung, a crony of President Chen Shu-bian (陳水扁), to later take up the carrier's chairmanship if current chairman Lee Yun-ling (李雲寧) retires in July.

Lin flatly denied the speculation yesterday.

"The government has no plans to reshuffle the carrier's top management since Lee and president Philip Wei (魏幸雄) are doing a good job," Lin said.

Despite having secured a government loan of NT$4.5 billion, shares of China Airlines dropped by NT$0.15 to close at NT$12.95 on the TAIEX yesterday.

A market analyst yesterday said the carrier's underperforming stock is the result of SARS and has nothing to do with any of its leadership changes.

"If Tsung should re-enter the airline, the carrier's management will remain strong based on her past commendable performance," said Wang Teng-cheng (王登城) of Yuanta Core Pacific Capital Man-agement Co (元大京華投顧).

Tsung's new task may also help bridge a future strategic partnership between the hotel and the carrier, said Michael Chen (陳行中), assistant public relations manager at the Grand Hotel.

"It's good news for the hotel since such a partnership, if possible, is sure to beef up our competitiveness," Chen said.

The hotel's occupancy rate dropped below 20 percent in early May, but recovered to hit 50 percent in the past few days, according to Hu Heng-li (胡恆麗), a spokesperson for the hotel's union.

Tsung has demonstrated strong leadership with the hotel's 700-staff after taking over last October.

"It'll be a loss to the hotel" if Tsung should take up a managerial post at China Airlines, Hu said.

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