Wed, Apr 07, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Far Eastern looks at expanding

BRIGHT FUTURE The group's chairman told shareholders yesterday that revenue has been climbing and that the core fundamentals of its eight companies are sound

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) reported revenues of NT$250 billion last year and expects the figure to reach NT$300 billion this year, underpinned by the strengthening domestic economy and the developing Chinese market, group chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) told shareholders yesterday.

"I believe we'll create more shareholder value this year as fundamentals of our businesses are sound," Hsu said.

Far Eastern held a two-day investor conference from Monday for its eight public companies, which include Far Eastern Textile Ltd (遠東紡織), Asia Cement Corp (亞洲水泥), Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信) and U-Ming Marine Transport Corp (裕民航運).

One of the group's high-profile companies is U-Ming, the nation's largest bulk carrier shipping company, which reported record-breaking sales of NT$7.53 billion with after-tax profits amounting to NT$2.3 billion and earnings per share (EPS) of NT$3.7 last year.

Market watchers were speculating that U-Ming's EPS may hit NT$10 this year. U-Ming President C. K. Ong (王書吉) said he is confident that the goal can be reached considering the stunning industry upturn since the fourth quarter last year.

Besides taking advantage of the global demand for freight transportation, U-Ming plans to expand its business across the Taiwan Strait in view of China now importing 30 percent of the world's ore, Ong said, adding that the company is considering incorporating inland transportation in the massive Chinese market.

Group companies that also aim at the Chinese market include Far Eastern Textile with sales of NT$34.1 billion last year, and Far Eastern Department Stores Ltd (遠東百貨) that had a turnaround last year and reported NT$390 million in pre-tax profits.

Far Eastern Department Stores plans to open at least three outlets in each first-tier city in China, like Shanghai and Beijing, and expects to reach sales of 300 million yuan in each store each year and break even within three years, said Alice Hsu (徐荷芳), president of the department-store chain.

The group also seeks to increase investment in local market by opening more outlets, starting with its flagship store in Hsinyi District's A13 construction site and a Banchiao outlet set to launch in 2006, Hsu said. It also seeks to open a new Sogo Department Store near its Chunghsiao East Road store, but Hsu said the project is still under negotiation.

On top of the new stores, Far Eastern Department Stores will form a joint venture with Hong Kong supermarket chain City'Super Ltd to open a multi-function supermarket within its department stores. The first one is set to launch in December in its Far Eastern Shopping Mall, Hsu said.

The group's other money-spinning venture is Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信), the nation's second-largest mobile-phone carrier after acquiring smaller rival KG Telecommunications Co (和信電訊) in October last year. Far EasTone saw combined after-tax revenue of NT$8.19 billion last year and EPS of NT$3.7.

Far EasTone President Jan Nilsson said the focus of the company is to promote its third-generation (3G) mobile network with a capital expenditure of NT$10 billion this year. Far EasTone's merger with KG Telecom helped the company forge a closer partnership with Japanese telecommunication giant NTT DoCoMo, which was a minority stakeholder in KG Telecom and now owns a 4.9 percent stake in the combined company.

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