Thu, Sep 08, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Taiwan Business Bank seeks quick results

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the face of a threatened strike today, Taiwan Business Bank (台灣企銀) appears to be in a hurry to speed up its share auction, as the Ministry of Finance said yesterday that the bid winner could be announced tomorrow at the earliest.

"The winner is likely to be decided on Friday afternoon at the earliest if the successful buyer's offer is higher than the floor price," Liu Teng-cheng (劉燈城), director-general of the National Treasury Agency, told reporters yesterday.

But it could also take longer to review the terms put forth by the bidders before an announcement could be made if none of them make satisfactory offers, Liu said.

In principle, the bank would remain independent for two years after the share-swap contract is signed, the official said, adding that the ministry does not rule out the possibility of the bank becoming a subsidiary of the winning financial-holding firm ahead of schedule -- if a smooth takeover can be ensured.

Liu made the remarks after the Chinese-language press reported yesterday that the deal's organizer, Goldman Sachs, decided to expedite the process by advancing the opening of bid and contract signing to tomorrow, one day ahead of schedule, in light of the strike call.

Goldman Sachs also notified the interested bidders of the changes to the bid rules to allow the winner to merge with Taiwan Business Bank within two years of signing the contract.

Goldman Sachs, however, refused to comment on the auction process when asked by the Taipei Times yesterday.

Lin Wan-fu (林萬福), chairman of the Taiwan Business Bank Industrial Union (台灣企銀工會), has said that more than 60 percent of employees -- or 3,000 -- will join the strike. He said the union is willing to continue the strike until an agreement on retirement plans and a job-security guarantee is reached.

"We are still communicating with the employees, hoping to keep at least 70 percent of workforce intact," Taiwan Business Bank vice president Liao Hsi-hsun (廖錫勳) said in a telephone interview.

"We have secured backup manpower of more than 600 people from five other banks, including the Bank of Taiwan (台灣銀行) and Changhwa Commercial Bank (彰化銀行), to maintain operations," Liao said.

The bank has sufficient capital to cover withdrawals, he said.

The government is selling its 44-percent holding in Taiwan Business Bank in stages as part of its policy to halve the number of state banks to six by year's end.

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