■ Visa-card holders spend a lot
The nation's Visa credit-card holders' strong purchasing power made Taiwan rank among the top five spending countries in China, Hong Kong and Japan last year, Visa International reported yesterday. Entitled "Recent Trends in Spending by Visitors to Asia Pacific," the report showed that the two largest spending countries in the region last year were the US (US$3.26 billion) and the UK (US$2.62 billion), followed by Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. In total, Visa-card holders purchased goods and services worth US$17.3 billion last year, up from US$16 billion in 2002 and US$14 billion in 2001, the report said. The growing importance of intra-regional tourism to Asia-Pacific countries was also highlighted, with Asia-Pacific-based cardholders making up 45 percent of total Visa spending last year, up from 39 percent in 1999. In the same period, the proportion of Visa-card spending in the region by cardholders from North America and Europe declined from 58 percent to 53 percent. "Intra-Asia travel is a good barometer for the health of the global travel industry ... What this report shows is a healthy Asian tourism industry," said Visa Asia Pacific Executive Vice-President James Murray.
■ Digital gap to be narrowed
The government has set the narrowing of the digital gap as a major policy and will invest NT$6.8 billion (US$206.68 million) over the next four years to achieve this goal, the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC) said yesterday. RDEC Chairman Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) made the remarks as the commission held a seminar on the promotion of information services in remote areas in Yunlin County, southern Taiwan. On the same occasion, the commission also donated computers that have been phased out by government agencies to poor students in Yunlin and Nantou to take care of minority groups in remote areas. The commission has from last year helped local governments establish footholds for residents in remote areas to use the Internet. This year, it has worked with local governments and civic groups to establish information service Web sites and promote information education to create a more convenient information service environment for residents in remote areas.
■ Acer reports rising sales
Acer Inc, Taiwan's third-largest computer company by market value, said sales last month rose 49 percent from a year ago. The company also announced it sold 125 million shares in BenQ Corp (明基電通). Sales last month rose to NT$16.2 billion (US$492 million) from NT$10.9 billion, the company said in a statement to the Taiwan Stock Exchange. Sales rose from NT$12.3 billion in September. Acer sold the BenQ shares at NT$32.40 a share and expects to record a capital gain of NT$1.7 billion, the company said in a separate statement to the exchange. BenQ is Taiwan's largest mobile-phone handset maker.
■ AU Optronics' sales rise 23%
AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), the world's third-largest maker of flat-panel displays used in computers and televisions, said sales last month rose 23 percent from a year ago. Sales climbed to NT$12.8 billion (US$389 million) from NT$10.4 billion, according to a Taiwan Stock Exchange statement. They fell from NT$12.9 billion the previous month. Rival Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp (奇美電子) also reported sales rose 23 percent from a year earlier to NT$8.5 billion ($259 million) last month. Sales rose from NT$8 billion in September, according to filings to the Taiwan Stock Exchange.