■ Fuel surcharges to rise
Taiwanese airlines will raise fuel surcharges on their international routes next month amid high fuel prices, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said yesterday. The leading carriers, China Airlines (華航) and EVA Airways (長榮航空), along with four other companies, will increase surcharges for short-haul flights from US$12.5 to US$15 and for long-haul flights from US$32.5 to US$39 starting on April 6, the administration said. "Higher fuel levies are being imposed because the airline companies can no longer absorb the additional fuel costs as oil prices continue to rise ... it would be lowered if crude prices drop in the future," it said in a statement.
■ Lin calls for FTA talks with US
Taiwan's representative to the WTO Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) called on the US on Wednesday to hold free trade agreement (FTA) talks with Taiwan as soon as possible. "While considering signing FTAs with its trade partners, the US government should give priority to the WTO member states that can bring greater economic benefits, including Taiwan," Lin said during a WTO meeting on US trade policy review. Lin said that the US is Taiwan's third-largest trade partner, with bilateral trade reaching US$49 billion last year, accounting for 14.5 percent of Taiwan's total foreign trade. He added that there is still great room for further expansion of bilateral trade and investment.
■ AUO-Sharp expand patent links
AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電), the world's third-largest flat-panel maker, said yesterday it would widen its cross-licensing agreement on thin-film-transistor liquid crystal display (TFT LCD) panels with Japan's Sharp Corp. The companies amended an earlier patent cross-licensing agreement on LCD panels for computers in order to expand the scope to cover other applications such as panels for televisions, a company statement said.
■ Asiaworld auction fails
The second public auction of Holiday Inn Asiaworld Taipei failed yesterday as no bid was tendered. The floor price was set at NT$8.79 billion (US$270 million), 20 percent off the price set at the first auction held last June. The Taipei District Court is expected to hold a third auction within the next month, according to regulations. Owned by Asiaworld Group (亞世集團), the money-losing hotel became a member of the Holiday Inn hotel chain in late 2003 and started to post profits. Wang Yung-ching (王永慶), chairman and founder of the Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團), and his younger brother own over 50 percent of the hotel's debts.
■ Public bond sale announced
The government plans to sell NT$115 billion (US$3.5 billion) in bonds in the second quarter to help fund spending, the finance ministry said yesterday. That compares with the NT$100 billion the government sold during the same period last year. The ministry plans to auction NT$40 billion worth of five-year bonds on April 11, NT$35 billion of two-year debts on May 9 and NT$40 billion of 10-year securities on June 6, according to a statement on its Web site. The government needs to sell debt to fund a deficit that will reach NT$263 billion this year, according to next year's approved budget.
■ NT dollar weakens
The New Taiwan dollar lost ground against the US dollar on the Taipei Foreign Exchange yesterday, declining NT$0.021 to close at NT$32.578. A total of US$1.15 billion changed hands during the day's trading.