Sat, Jul 02, 2005 - Page 10 News List

New TTL head to review privatization mechanism

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Stressing that privatization of state-run enterprises is an international trend, Ray Dawn (董瑞斌), the new helmsman of Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corp (TTL, 台灣菸酒公司), said yesterday that he will soon review and improve TTL's privatization scheme to seek consensus from both the government and employees.

"I don't think the government should run any business. The state should exit from the market so that [state-owned] companies can better compete with their private rivals," he said at a ceremony during which he took over leadership of the company from Morgan Hwang (黃營杉).

Hwang will assume the chairmanship of the state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) next week.

During his 989-day tenure at TTL, Hwang injected his marketing expertise into the century-old company and successfully led it to retake its market share at a time when foreign imports were threatening TTL's leading position.

TTL posted NT$8.65 billion (US$280 million) in pre-tax income last year, up from NT$8.54 billion in 2003.

However, the privatization process has been thwarted by union objections.

The company's labor union is pleading with lawmakers to ensure that the 7,000 employees will be able to keep their jobs.

According to the Ministry of Finance's timetable, TTL should have been privatized last year.

Dawn, 47, a former director of Kaohsiung City's Bureau of Finance, said that the key to privatization was engaging in comprehensive communication with labor representatives, in addition ot devising complementary measures to offset the possible impact on employees.

"The interests of our customers, employees and shareholders must be safeguarded during the privatization process," he said.

In response to demands from anti-tobacco groups that TTL rename its leading cigarette brand, "Long Life" (長壽), to avoid misleading consumers, Dawn said that there was room to review the trademark and make appropriate changes.

As Long Life is a well-known brand name that has been popular for more than a decade, further discussion is needed to decide whether it should be given up, Dawn said.

Chan Shih-chu (詹賜局), director of TTL's tobacco department, said that the renowned brand name is the company's most important asset, and that changing the name would cause significant losses and jeopardize the company's corporate operations.

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