■ Electricity rates to rise
Minister of Economic Affairs Morgan Hwang (黃營杉) said yesterday that state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) is scheduled to hike electricity rates July 1, but the increase will not exceed 8 percent. Hwang made the remarks while fielding questions at a meeting of the legislature's Economics and Energy Committee. He said Taipower has already sent its power rate adjustment plan to the ministry, which will soon convene a special commission to assess the proposal and decide on the hike range and the date of implementation. If rates are hiked to what Hwang said would be a maximum of 8 percent, household users would see an increase to NT$2.7 from the current NT$2.5 per kilowatt hour on average, while industrial users would see an increase to NT$1.836 to NT$1.944 from the current NT$1.7 to NT$1.8 per kilowatt hour on average. As summer electricity rate is set to begin next month with an increase of between 13 percent and 27 percent, users are bound to feel the pinch of power rate adjustment.
■ US trade official to visit
Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia will visit Taipei from May 24 to 27, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said on Tuesday. This will be Bhatia's first trip to Taiwan in his current post, making him the most senior US official to visit the country in six years. He will be accompanied by Assistant US Trade Representative for China Tim Stratford. Bhatia will take part in two days of meetings under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which was established in 1994 to resolve bilateral trade issues and enhance economic cooperation, the USTR said. Among the issues on the agenda will be agriculture, enforcement of intellectual property rights, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications policy, the office said.
■ ITRI opens patent bidding
The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院) will release 111 patents to private companies, with the bidding deadline set for June 12, an institute official said yesterday. The official said the ITRI has separated the patents into four categories and 10 patent compounds, and added that companies can bid for single patent or a set of patents. He said the patents cover several key information-technology areas -- computer graphics, multiprocessors, optical character recognition, and virtual reality.
■ Lehman Brothers to advise trust
Lehman Brothers will be the first foreign bank to advise a local real estate investment trust (REIT), according to a source close to the matter yesterday. The US investment bank will act as the financial advisor for a NT$3.8 billion (US$120 million) real estate investment trust which is to be launched by Continental Engineering Corp (大陸工程) and two other local companies, said an official with President Securities Co (統一證券), the underwriter for the sale. The REIT, set to launch next month, would generate a 4 percent yield, about the same as those provided by the REITs that have been issued by Cathay Financial Holding Co (國泰金控), Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控) and Shin Kong Financial Holding (新光金控), said the official, who declined to be identified. "It's not only Lehman's first case in Taiwan, but also the first Taiwan REIT advised by a foreign bank," the official said. "Lehman is not the only one interested in the Taiwan market. Major rivals like Deutsche Bank are also trying to get into the market," he said.