Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Top slots at state-run firms go begging

HELP WANTED The government has been looking to fill the post of chairman at both Taiwan Sugar and China Shipbuilding but has yet to come up with any takers

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government appears to be having difficulties in filling the top job at both state-run Taiwan Sugar Corp (Taisugar, 台糖) and China Shipbuilding Corp (中船) as both companies' presidents moved to take up the chairman's job yesterday -- temporarily.

At the headquarters of Taisugar on Taipei's Chienkuo South Road, outgoing chairman Kong Jaw-sheng (龔照勝) handed his office to Wei Wei (魏巍) who had just become president last month.

Kong, who had only held the chairman's job for six months himself, was later inaugurated as chairman of the newly-established Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC).

His appointment to that job was a surprise, just as his Taisugar appointment had been last December. Kong replaced Wu Nai-jen (吳乃仁), who had resigned to campaign for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) re-election.

Since Kong's appointment to the FSC was announced, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has been searching for his replacement.

"It should not be hard to find a candidate because the post has long been deemed a lucrative appointment," said Hsieh Chin-ho (謝金河), publisher of the Chinese-language Win-Win Weekly.

Taisugar has been losing money in its main businesses of sugar, gas stations and convenience stores, but its annual financial reports still look good because of the sale of parcels of the massive amount of land that it owns.

For the first quarter of the year, Taisugar reported a pre-tax profit of NT$2.16 billion, which it attributed to brisk property sales.

Taiwan Ratings Corp in April gave Taisugar a long-term corporate credit rating of "twA+" and a short- term rating of "twA-1," an improvement from a negative position at the end of last year, mainly because of the company's profits from selling land to the government.

Therefore, the mission of Taisugar's next chairman -- providing land for the expansion of the high-tech industry -- should not be hard, Hsieh said.

One reason people may be de-terred from taking up the post is the implication of a "political reward" that goes with the appointment, he said.

Former interior minister Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) and former deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office Chen Che-nan (陳哲男) have been mentioned as candidates, but the ministry has refused to confirm the reports.

The other post the ministry is eager to fill is at China Shipbuilding. Chairman Hsu Chiang (徐強) announced before the March presidential election that he wanted to step downresigned for health reasons.

Hsu was appointed to the job two years ago, after the then chairman, Yu Chen-nan (余辰南), lost the post in the wake of a scandal. Hsu was a professor of industrial management at National Cheng Kung University at the time.

Hsu's revitalization plan -- which cut the number of employees by 47 percent and slashed salaries by 35 percent -- helped China Shipbuilding turn around in 2002. With the recovery of the shipping industry, the company has received orders of NT$50.6 billion this year.

But Hsu said the government faces a difficult time finding a qualified candidate to lead the company, because there were few shipbuilding professionals left as the industry has withered over the past decade.

"Even if there are qualified people, they may not want to take the position because it pays less than the private sector, while it requires much more hard work," Hsu said.

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