Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Kaohsiung Business Bank will be put up for auction

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The debt-ridden Kaohsiung Business Bank (高雄企銀) will be auctioned off on Dec. 22, a move that may cost the government up to NT$20 billion, the Central Deposit Insurance Corp (CDIC, 中央存保) said yesterday.

"Two local financial holding companies, which have shown interest in acquiring the bank, have undertaken due diligence checks into its assets and liabilities," said Johnson Chen (陳戰勝), president of the CDIC, which has been the custodian of the bank since January last year.

At a seminar to discuss the nation's progress on financial reforms yesterday, Chen told reporters that he estimates that the failed bank may cost the government's Financial Restructuring Fund (金融重建基金) between NT$17 billion and NT$20 billion in cash to bail it out.

Citing a confidentiality agreement, Chen, however, refused to reveal the names of the two bidders, adding that there may be more potential buyers before the application deadline on Nov. 28.

According to Chen, the lender, which currently operates 44 branches nationwide, has less than NT$100 billion in its savings accounts and about NT$40 billion in other assets after writing off NT$21.7 billion of impaired assets in June.

As a regional bank, the Kaohsiung Business Bank is licensed to operate more than 60 local branches, which Chen said will be a selling point to local financial holding companies in light of their plans to expand.

No foreign investors, which are required to have past experience in running banks, indicated by a minimum 25 percent stake in a bank, have approached the corporation to apply to enter the bidding, Chen added.

In his address to the 18th World Chinese Banking Amity Conference yesterday morning, Minister of Finance Lin Chuan (林全) urged the legislature to quickly approve the restructuring fund's size, accelerating the nation's progress in financial reforms.

"The fund's allocation is the first step to facilitating an exit system that is empowered to shut down failing banks and to safeguard financial order and the banking sector's health," Lin told the conference yesterday.

As a guest speaker at the same conference, Premier Yu Shyi-kun blamed the opposition alliance for boycotting review of the fund's bill.

Yu accused the opposition parties of delaying the nation's progress in financial reforms while trumpeting the government's achievement in writing off a total of NT$336.7 billion in bad loans within the past year and nine months.

In response, Legislative Speaker and KMT Vice Chairman Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday told the same conference that the People First Party (PFP) had agreed to expand the fund's size, allowing the government to immediately bail out failing banks whose assets have turned negative, such as Chung Shing Commercial Bank .

Wang said that PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has informed him that the opposition parties are ready to agree to capitalize the fund in two phases so as to secure enough bail-out money for the current DPP government and the succeeding government after next March's presidential elections to deal with failed banks. Wang didn't elaborate on the plan.

During the last legislative session, the opposition alliance shelved the bill for the fund, prohibiting the fund from covering failed banks' non-depository liabilities by cutting the NT$680 billion fund proposed by the finance ministry by half.

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