Sat, Oct 25, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Business Briefs

STAFF WRITER WITH AGENCIES

Fund told to buy bank shares

The Ministry of Finance yesterday told the management committee of Development Fund (開發基金) to take up a 5 percent stake in state-run Chang Hwa Commercial Bank's (彰化銀行) recapitalization plan to raise a total of NT$13.5 billion.

"The sale of 240 million shares is expected to cost the fund NT$3.48 billion," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry's U-turn came in the wake of heavy criticism from opposition lawmakers, who accused the ministry of insider trading by relinquishing its right to take up the shares while attempting to benefit potential buyers.

Opposition lawmakers, on Thursday, claimed that the ministry had asked Masterlink Securities Corp (元富證券) to locate private investors, who are interested in buying the shares at a selling price of NT$14 per share.

They argued the sale will attract arbitrageurs since the selling price was less than Chang Hwa's close at NT$16.8 per share on Thursday.

To ease lawmakers' concerns, Minister of Finance Lin Chuan (林全) yesterday said the ministry has decided to scrap its original plan and asked the government-owned fund to acquire the profitable shares.

China Air forecasts profit

China Airlines Co (華航) said it expects to post a full-year profit of more than US$30 million, recovering from a first-half loss after the SARS outbreak, because of an increase in cargo shipments.

The airline reported a first-half loss of NT$905 million (US$26 million), compared with a NH$1.34 billion profit a year earlier. Its second-half profit last year almost tripled to NT$1.86 billion. The airline said in August it expected to make a full-year profit this year.

China Airlines' earnings have been boosted by cargo shipments, which weren't affected by the outbreak, president and chief executive officer Philip Wei (魏幸雄) said.

"Since July, we've turned from a loss to a profit," Wei said from South Korea, where he was attending the annual meeting of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.

"We're seeing travel demand that's better than the AAPA average," he said, without elaborating.

Earlier this month, China Airlines said sales rose 8.9 percent to NT$6.7 billion.

Money supply growth speeds up

The nation's money supply grew last month at its fastest pace in almost two years because bank lending and investments increased, and more funds were invested in the country from overseas, according to the central bank.

M2, the broadest measure of the money supply, grew 4.9 percent last month from a year earlier after expanding 4.3 percent in August, the bank said in a statement. That's the biggest gain since November 2001.

M2 measures currency in circulation, checking and savings accounts, and money-market funds.

The M1B money supply, which excludes time deposits and foreign-currency deposits included in the M2 money supply, rose 16 percent last month after increasing 14 percent in August.

M1A, which tracks net currency in circulation plus checking accounts and passbook deposits, grew 13 percent after expanding 10 percent in August, the report showed.

The TAIEX had a second straight quarter of gains in the July-to-September period as more overseas investment poured in. The government in August raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 3.1 percent from 2.9 percent.

NT dollar dips

The New Taiwan dollar yesterday turned lower against its US counterpart, dropping NT$0.045 to close at NT$34.020 on the Taipei foreign exchange market.

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