■ China Steel to invest NT$30bn
China Steel Corp (中鋼), Taiwan's largest steelmaker, said it will invest more than NT$30 billion (US$940 million) in the next four years to expand its production facilities on the island. "We want to expand in the products that are harder to make and that earn bigger profits, and where there's less competition," Chung Lo-min (鍾樂民), a company vice president, said yesterday. The planned investment "is aimed at upgrading our products," he said. The Kaohsiung-based company will build facilities that make cold-rolled steel and other products for applications including automobiles, furniture and liquid crystal displays, he said. Increasing output from China, which makes a third of the world's steel, has pushed the Taiwanese steelmaker to lower its prices for two consecutive quarters. The Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團), Taiwan's biggest diversified industrial company, has said it will build a NT$135 billion steel mill. China Steel's new projects may include a production line capable of making more than 1.7 million metric tons of cold-rolled steel a year, using hot-rolled steel the company makes, Chung said.
■ TSMC's December sales flat
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world's largest contract microchip maker, said yesterday its sales last month edged down 0.4 percent from November. TSMC posted NT$27.42 billion (US$851.55 million) in December sales, compared with NT$27.52 billion in November, the firm said. However, the December figure was up 37.6 percent from a year earlier, it said. Cumulative sales last year rose to a record NT$264.59 billion, up 3.4 percent, the company said. Fourth-quarter sales stood at NT$81.16 billion, compared with its Oct. 27 forecast of NT$77 billion to NT$79 billion, and third-quarter sales of NT$69.26 billion, it added.
■ Property bidding halted
The National Property Bureau under the Ministry of Finance yesterday announced that the bidding process for state-owned properties scheduled for this month will be halted for a systemic overhaul. This will affect a total of 191 land bids nationwide, the bureau said. The decision was made in response to a scandal that erupted last week, when a post office worker was found colluding with land brokers to intercept land tender bids mailed to a special post office box and tamper with the bidding prices for certain property developers to help them win the contracts. "After a review is taken to improve bidding procedures, we'll issue new announcements to auction off these state real estates," said Kao Chih-ta (高志達), secretary general of the bureau.
■ Socle denies acquisition plan
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (中芯) of China may acquire Taiwanese chip-design company Socle Technology Corp (虹晶科技), the Commercial Times reported yesterday, without specifying its source. Socle president Liu Yu-yuan (劉育源) denied that the company may be acquired, according to the report. He said Socle is seeking alliances with several suppliers of made-to-order semiconductors and investment by the chipmakers is not a priority, the Taipei-based newspaper said yesterday. Semiconductor Manufacturing is China's biggest made-to-order chipmaker.
■ NT dollar rises
The New Taiwan dollar advanced against the US dollar on the Taipei Foreign Exchange yesterday, rising NT$0.246 to close at NT$31.952, the highest close since Aug. 12 last year. A total of US$1.045 billion changed hands during the day's trading.