■ UMC ratings stay unchanged
Taiwan Ratings Corp (中華信評), a local arm of ratings agency Standard & Poor's, yesterday said it would maintain its ratings on United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) as the resignation of the company's chairman would have no immediate impact. UMC chairman Robert Tsao (曹興誠) said in a statement last week that he would resign at a regular board meeting scheduled for March after a feud with the government over whether the company was late in disclosing information regarding its earnings restatement. Taiwan Ratings rated UMC, the world's second-largest contract chipmaker, as "twAA," with an outlook rated "Stable" and "twA-1."
■ TSMC downplays breakdown
The world's largest made-to-order supplier of microships, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), said that one of its factories suffered a breakdown in the fourth quarter, causing "insignificant" losses. "There are no changes to our fourth-quarter guidance" on sales and production, Tzeng Jinn-haw (曾晉皓), a spokesman for the Hsinchu-based company, said on Monday. The "financial impact of the breakdown is insignificant," he said. The factory is back to full capacity, Tzeng said. He declined to say how much the breakdown would cost the company. TSMC may lose an estimated NT$300 million (US$9.1 million) after one of its eight-inch wafer plants suffered a breakdown in production, the Economic Daily News reported yesterday, citing an unidentified client of the company. TSMC said on Oct. 27 that it expects fourth-quarter sales of NT$77 billion to NT$79 billion, compared with NT$63.9 billion a year earlier.
■ Warrants suspended again
Taiwan's brokerages were to stop issuing share warrants yesterday until a tax dispute with the Ministry of Finance is settled, Chien Hung-wen (簡鴻文), chairman of the Chinese Securities Association (券商公會), said on Monday after a member meeting. The 24 securities brokerages licensed to issue warrants are losing money after paying a business income tax of 25 percent, a Taipei-based newspaper said, citing Chien. Brokerages have sued the government for repayment of taxes since 1997, the newspaper said. They had suspended issuing warrants for four months last year over the same issue.
■ Macquarie eyes broadband firm
Australia's biggest commercial radio operator, Macquarie Media Group, has hired DBS Group Holdings Ltd and ING Groep NV for a A$576 million (US$422.9 million) loan to buy Carlyle Group's stake in Taiwan Broadband Communications (台灣寬頻). The one-year loan will be syndicated by the two arranging banks this month, Macquarie Media chief financial officer David Beck said. A special-purpose company will be incorporated to be the borrower, Beck said. The purchase of the 60 percent stake from Carlyle Group, manager of the biggest US buyout fund, will give Macquarie Media access to 12 percent of Asia's third-largest cable television market. Macquarie Bank Ltd, Australia's biggest investment bank, will hold the remaining stake. Washington-based Carlyle bought the cable-TV network company for US$200 million in July 1999.
■ NT dollar strengthens
The New Taiwan dollar gained against the US dollar on the Taipei Foreign Exchange yesterday, climbing NT$0.173 to close at NT$32.645. A total of US$1.41 billion changed hands during the day's trading.
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