Fri, May 06, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Nan Shan employees stage rally

NO MORE MONEY:Nan Shan Life Insurance Co‘s acting president said last month that owner AIG would not inject new funds or put it on the market for a third time

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff Reporter

Nan Shan Life Insurance employees hold up placards in front of the legislature in Taipei yesterday during a rally asking the Financial Supervisory Commission to approve the company’s acquisition by a local consortium.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

More than 10,000 employees from Nan Shan Life Insurance Co (南山人壽) yesterday staged a rally in front of the legislature in Taipei, asking the Financial Supervisory Commission to quickly approve its acquisition by a local consortium.

The insurer’s US parent, American International Group Inc (AIG), inked a deal in January to sell its 97.57 percent stake in Nan Shan to Ruen Chen Investment Holding Co (潤成投資) for US$2.16 billion.

Yesterday’s demonstration came after the US insurance giant recently indicated it would have no choice but to downsize Nan Shan if the authorities reject its second attempt to sell the local unit in order to pay down debt to the US government.

“The rally is intended to convey our concern over the lingering uncertainty about the company’s fate, two years after AIG first put it on the market,” Nan Shan spokeswoman Amanda Chou (周佳容) said.

In 2009, AIG sought to sell Nan Shan to a Hong Kong consortium comprising China Strategic Holdings Ltd (中策集團) and Primus Financial Holdings Ltd (博智金融), but the Financial Supervisory Commission thwarted the attempt in August last year on concern over the consortium’s long-term commitment and its ability to raise capital.

Nan Shan acting president and chief executive Richard Bender said last month that AIG would not inject new funds into its Taiwanese subsidiary or put it on the market for a third time if the regulator rejects the sale again.

The commission reiterated yesterday evening that it would carry out its review in a prudent, fair and efficient manner. Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman Chen Yuh-chang (陳裕璋) has promised to reach a decision before the end of next month.

“Many employees are worried about losing their job,” Chou said. “The uncertainty has made selling new policies very difficult.”

Without fresh funds, Nan Shan’s business will wither or even come to a halt, affecting the rights of 40,000 employees and 4 million policyholders, Bender said in an internal letter last month that rooted for the acquisition by Ruen Chen.

The new consortium, comprising supermarket operator Ruentex Development Co (潤泰新), cement and chemical fiber maker Ruentex Industries Ltd (潤泰全) and shoemaker Pou Chen Corp (寶成工業), has pledged to retain all existing staff and maintain their pay and compensation packages for at least two years.

“Regulators and lawmakers should know the majority of Nan Shan employees support the acquisition, although some of their colleagues have a different view,” Chou said.

More than 20,000 back office staff and sales agents signed a petition to show their support for the acquisition bid, Chou said.

Thousands of other sales agents, however, have urged the commission to withhold approval unless Ruen Chen agrees to recognize them as regular employees rather than independent contractors, disqualifing them from retirement benefits.

Financial Supervisory Commission Secretary-General Lin Tung-liang (林棟樑) said the commission would factor in opinions from all sides when weighing up the case.

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