■ FTC fines 11 companies
The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) fined 11 sand and gravel companies in the center of the country for hoarding in an attempt to manipulate prices. Hung Cheng (弘城), Shang Ting (上鼎), Ting Hsing (鼎興), Miao Pu (苗圃), Shun Yi (順益), Tseng Kuang Yi (增廣益) and five other companies located in the Chuoshui and Tachia River areas were fined a total of NT$33.08 million (US$1.05 million). Domestic sand and gravel prices have been rising since China's announcement last month that it would suspend sand and gravel exports beginning May 1.
■ MOF releases wine test info
The Ministry of Finance released its final version of testing procedures on wine imports yesterday, but European business groups warned that the wine market might be seriously affected. The ministry said testing requirements for methanol and lead in wine will be dropped and the residual content for sulphur dioxide will be relaxed from 0.25g per liter to a maximum of 0.4g per liter. Wine products which come in batches of less than 90 liters each with average CIF quotes of NT$4,000 per liter or more, would not be subject to testing, National Treasury Agency Director-General Liu Teng-cheng (劉燈城) said. CIF quotes refer to prices including cost, insurance and freight. The new regulations will be implemented as scheduled starting July 1.
■ Post office plans loan offer
Chunghwa Post Co (中華郵政) is planning to offer soft loans to Taiwanese businesspeople with operations in China, but who are planning to relocate their China operations back to this country, Chunghwa's new chairman, Lai Ching-chi (賴清祺), said yesterday. Speaking at a handover ceremony as he assumed his post, Lai said Chunghwa will offer some NT$200 billion in low-interest loans via banking institutions around the country. According to Lai, Chunghwa Post holds savings deposits totaling more than NT$3 trillion. The company is planning to use some NT$600 billion of this to invest in the domestic stock market or other medium-long-term investment programs authorized by the Council of Economic Planning and Development, Lai said.
■ Jih Sun Financial rating raised
Taiwan Ratings Corp (中華信評) yesterday placed its "twBBB" long-term counterparty credit rating and "twA-3" short-term rating on Jih Sun Financial Holding Co (日盛金控) on CreditWatch with positive implications, the rating firm said in a statement. The CreditWatch placement follows an announcement on Wednesday that Japan-based Shinsei Bank Ltd has agreed to a strategic investment in Jih Sun Financial. Shinsei will invest approximately ?40.2 billion (US$36.19 million) in Jih Sun Financial's common and preferred shares, which represents a 31.8 percent common ownership stake. The strategic alliance could have a positive impact on the profitability of both Shinsei and Jih Sun given the opportunities for Shinsei to leverage its expertise in non-performing loan disposal at Jih Sun's troubled banking subsidiary, Jih Sun International Bank (日盛銀行).
■ NT dollar weakens
The New Taiwan dollar weakened yesterday as the US dollar strengthened against most Asian currencies after the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates saying more increase will depend importantly on economic data. The local currency declined NT$0.122 to close at NT$31.460 against the US dollar on the Taipei foreign exchange market. Turnover was US$1.087 billion.