Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 12 News List

ANALYSIS: Business leaders cautious on TSE opening to China

WELCOME MOVE While most believed Chinese capital could give the local bourse a much-needed lift, they thought this was unlikely to happen any time soon

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwan Stock Exchange's (TSE) plan to allow Chinese investors to buy Taiwanese stocks is unlikely to take effect ahead of the opening of direct transportation links, although such a liberal move would greatly benefit the domestic stock market, local business leaders said.

"I don't think that opening the stock market [to Chinese investors] would be priority after the elections," said Jason Fong (馮志良), deputy secretary-general of the Chinese National Federation of Industries (工總). "It is also unlikely that Chinese authorities would allow [Chinese] capital to spill over to Taiwan since many Chinese companies list in Hong Kong."

"Human flows always come before capital flows," he said. "If Chinese are not allowed to travel freely to Taiwan, they will be worried about any capital outflows to Taiwan."

TSE chairman Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) said in an interview with Bloomberg Newswire on Nov. 16 that the local bourse was preparing for an influx of Chinese investments to boost the value of the local stock market, which has underperformed its Asian counterparts in the past few years.

"Taiwan will eventually have to open up to China in order to stay competitive and be globalized," the report quoted Wu as saying. "Both sides are set to become more liberalized and that trend cannot be reversed."

An economic adviser to Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Wu believes the presidential election in March would pave the way for an agreement with Beijing as both presidential candidates favor better relations with China, the Bloomberg report said.

The report also quoted Wu as saying that the exchange was considering implementing measures such as permitting electronic proxy voting by future Chinese shareholders through e-mail.

The TSE chairman, however, told the Taipei Times on Thursday that the "TSE hasn't been working on any concrete measures at this point."

Given the cross-strait political standoff, Luo Huai-jia (羅懷家), executive director of the Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (電電公會) is not optimistic that governments from both sides will give the green light to such a proposal any time soon.

"We have limited hopes since both parents-in-law [referring to the Taiwanese and Chinese governments] have to agree," Luo said.

Neither did Luo think that opening the stock market would be incentive enough to lure Taiwanese businesspeople in China to return home and seek domestic listing.

"The key hurdle [for Taiwanese companies to return and list in the home market] is the government's 40 percent cap on China-bound capital," he said. "It has nothing to do with whether the local stock market is open to Chinese capital."

"Businesses can raise money anywhere, but they need to be able to freely decide where their money can go," he said.

Luo joins Fong and other business groups in urging the government to further ease restrictions on China-bound investment, including capping investment at 40 percent of a listed company's net worth and allowing direct transportation links to attract Chinese tourists.

Although plans to open up the local stock market to Chinese shareholders are still at an early stage and face a gamut of issues, such as currency settlement and clearance, businesses welcome the idea.

"That would be great news [for the TAIEX]," Taiwan Securities Association chairman Hwang Min-juh (黃敏助) said.

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