Tue, Jul 15, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Construction problems end Sogo's Tienmu plans

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pacific Sogo Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨), one of the nation's largest department store chains, has pulled out of plans to set up a department store in Taipei's Tienmu area, an executive of the company said yesterday.

The expansion plan fizzled because of construction problems.

"The construction project [by Cathay Life Insurance Co (國泰人壽)] has been delayed for more than one year," said Alex Ro (羅仕清), a vice president at the Pacific Sogo. "Since Cathay Life never told us when the project would be completed, we can't just sit and wait."

Ro made the remarks yesterday on the sidelines of a ceremony to sign a five-year tenant agreement with Taipei Financial Center Corp (台北金融大樓公司) to set up an 800-ping (2,640m2) outlet on the Taipei 101 Mall's second floor.

Sogo sent out a certified letter to Cathay Life to nullify the tenant agreement early this month, said Lee Kuang-rong (李光榮), another Sogo vice president.

Lee said that Sogo signed a memorandum of understanding with Cathay Life in August 2000 to set up a Sogo outlet in the seven-level shopping complex on the intersection of Tienmu East Road and Chungcheng Road, occupying 2,500 pings (8,250m2).

Originally scheduled to be completed by 2001, the project was delayed after land in the neighborhood began subsiding because of the project.

The incident has now become a hurdle for Cathay Life as the company has failed to secure an operating license from authorities.

Cathay Life was not available for comment on the issue yesterday, but an official at Cathay Financial Holding Co (國泰金控), the parent company, said they would like the Sogo deal to continue.

"The project is at the final stage ... we are about to receive the license," said Cathay spokesman Lee Chang-ken (李長庚).

However, Sogo seems less interested in keeping the tie with Cathay, saying the two parties "hadn't discussed [the deal] for almost two months," according to Ro.

Sogo aims to generate NT$27 billion in sales this year, with its five department stores around the nation -- two in Taipei and one each in Chungli, Hsinchu and Kaohsiung.

In related news, Taipei 101 Mall is slated to formally open on Nov. 14 and most of the retail space has been leased.

The 23,000-ping (76,027m2), four-floor mall has so far signed up 149 commercial tenants, representing 91 percent of the entire leasing space, according to Simon Van de Velde, a senior development executive at Lend Lease Pty Ltd Taiwan, the leasing agent of the mall.

Premium brands including Louis Vuitton, Prada, Escada, Cerruti and Issey Miyak are expected to have a presence at the mall.

Hong Kong's Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd plans to open an 800-ping (2,640m2) grocery store, "Jason's Market," on the mall lower level, focusing on fresh and prepared food.

Singapore-based bookstore Page One will also have its first outlet in Taiwan on the mall's fourth-floor, featuring foreign-language books.

Lend Lease plans to seal the remaining leasing plans by the end of August, Van de Velde said.

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