Thu, Feb 21, 2013 - Page 13 News List

Taishin pushes Chang Hwa merger

‘NO DEAL’:The finance ministry said Taishin’s proposal was not feasible, that it would dilute the government’s holding and the deal remains mired in controversy

By Crystal Hsu and Amy Su  /  Staff reporters

Taishin Financial Holding Co (台新金控) yesterday said it would seek the support of the Ministry of Finance to push the merger of its banking subsidiary, Taishin International Bank (台新銀行), and Chang Hwa Commercial Bank (彰化銀行), but the ministry appeared cool to the idea, saying obstacles remained to the controversial deal.

Taishin Financial president Joseph Jao (饒世湛) and chief financial officer Welch Lin (林維俊) announced the firm’s latest move at the Taiwan Stock Exchange Corp after the company’s board gave its go-ahead yesterday afternoon.

Taishin Financial is seeking an end to the seven-year limbo since it bought a 22.5 percent stake in Chang Hwa Bank in 2005 for NT$36.57 billion (US$1.23 billion), equivalent to NT$26.12 per share then, with a view to owning the lender.

However, the merger has stalled because of controversy related to the second phase of financial reform initiated by then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

UNEQUAL MERGER

Objections to the smaller private bank, Taishin, taking over the big state-owned bank Chang Hwa has stirred speculation that corruption might have been involved in the deal. The case is still under investigation.

Currently, Taishin Financial appoints Chang Hwa Bank’s chairman and the ministry picks its president, which limits its cross-selling efficiency and earnings potential, Jao said.

“The board passed a resolution whereby both Taishin Bank and Chang Hwa Bank will activate the integration process,” Jao said.

Toward that end, Taishin Financial will first seek approval from the Ministry of Finance, the second-largest shareholder in Chang Hwa Bank, Jao said.

Taishin Financial brought up the idea of the merger with the ministry before the Lunar New Year and will put in greater efforts to remove any obstacles, Jao said.

It is premature to speculate on the name of the would-be bank or the financial holding company, Jao said.

Whatever the outcome of the merger, the surviving bank would remain a subsidiary of Taishin Financial, Lin said.

Reports of the merger pushed up the share prices of both companies, with Taishin Financial hitting the daily 7 percent limit in mid-session and closing up 3.67 percent at NT$12.70, outpacing the TAIEX’s 0.86 percent advance, Taiwan Stock Exchange data showed.

However, the ministry yesterday voiced its objection to the proposed merger.

“The merger will be detrimental to the public welfare,” Vice Minister of Finance William Tseng (曾銘宗) told a media briefing.

Even if Taishin Financial lets Chang Hwa be the surviving bank, Tseng said the “non-friendly takeover” would expand Taishin Financial’s stake in Chang Hwa and further dilute the government’s shareholding.

Tseng added that the deal remained controversial, and that the proposal introduced by Taishin Financial was not feasible in the ministry’s opinion.

NO CONSENSUS

Tseng also denied that the ministry reached a consensus for the merger with Taishin Financial during a meeting with Taishin Financial chairman Thomas Wu (吳東亮) before the Lunar New Year.

“The ministry voiced its disagreement [with the idea] during the meeting,” Tseng said.

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