■ Corruption concerns affect trade
Taiwan share prices closed 0.53 percent lower yesterday as investors took to the sidelines amid continuing political concerns sparked by corruption allegations against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), dealers said.
The weighted index lost 38.14 point to 7,136.06, the low for the day, on a turnover of NT$83.80 billion (US$2.56 billion).
Earlier in the day, two Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said they are quitting parliament to protest the manner in which their party has handled corruption allegations against Chen.
"Shares traded sideways against a contraction in turnover, reflecting a wait-and-see stance pervasive in the market," Jih Sun Securities Investment (日盛投顧) deputy manager Wilson Lien said.
In addition, heavily-weighted financial and electronics shares were still under pressure, he said.
■ Insurer and credit rating raised
Taiwan Ratings Corp (中華信評) yesterday raised its insurer financial strength and counterparty credit ratings on Central Insurance Co (中央產險) to "twAA+" from "twAA-." Its outlook is positive, said Taiwan Ratings, a local arm of Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, in a report. At the same time, Taiwan Ratings removed both ratings from CreditWatch, where they were placed with positive implications on Feb. 17.
The rating action reflects the improved credit profile of Central Insurance due to implicit support from the financially stronger American International Group Inc (AIG), which became the sole owner of Central Insurance in August this year via a share-swap transaction.
Central Insurance is expected to merge with AIU Insurance Co Taiwan late next year.
■ THSRC to sell millions in bonds
Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC, 台灣高鐵), developer of the nation's fastest train service, said it plans to sell as much as US$300 million in bonds that can be converted into equity to overseas investors.
The rail operator's board of directors approved the bond sale today, it said in a statement to the Taiwan Stock Exchange, without saying when the bond sale will take place or what the company will use the proceeds for.
The board's approval came after company chairwoman Nita Ing (殷琪) said on July 31 that the company hired Deutsche Bank AG to underwrite the overseas sale of US$200 million of convertible bonds, and plans to complete the sale before the end of this year.
THSRC shares fell 0.9 percent to NT$11.40 at the 1:30pm close in Taipei.
■ Banks referred to prosecutors
Some of eight banking institutions suspected of irregularities have been referred to the prosecuting authorities, Shih Jun-ji (施俊吉), chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission, said yesterday.
Shih said that if bank executives or other employees are suspected of embezzlement, "such persons have been referred to the prosecution" which will decide whether to launch investigations into their alleged violations of Articles 32 and 33 of the Banking Law (銀行法).
He confirmed that some of the institutions have been referred to the prosecution.
DPP Legislator Chang Hua-kuan (張花冠) said the commission should look into such institutions as the Enterprise Bank of Hualien (花蓮企銀), Taitung Business Bank (台東區中小企業銀行), China United Trust and Investment Corp (中聯信託) and Chinese Bank (中華銀行).
■ NT gains on US dollar
The New Taiwan dollar gained against the US dollar on the Taipei Foreign Exchange yesterday, going up NT$0.083 to close at NT$32.736 on turnover of US$946 million.