The fate of Taiwan Life Insurance Co (台灣人壽) remains in limbo yesterday as a board meeting to discuss a merger agreement that was scheduled for 2pm yesterday had not begun as of last night. The meeting was called to consider extending a deadline for a merger with CTBC Financial Holding Co (中信金控).
The insurer signed a deal with CTBC in October last year to join the conglomerate through a share swap, but is reconsidering after a more generous suitor entered the scene.
As of 9pm yesterday, Taiwan Life had not filed a stock briefing on the board’s decision, while the Chinese-language Economic Daily reported without citing sources that board members were unable to enter the meeting room at 7pm.
CTBC’s failure to realize the deal before the deadline on Sunday enables Taiwan Life to call a board meeting and terminate the merger agreement.
The 10-member board is divided on the matter, as Long Bon International Co (龍邦), a Greater Taichung-based hotel service provider and the largest shareholder with four seats, has made clear its desire to end the deal.
State-owned Taiwan Financial Holding Co (台灣金控), the second-largest shareholder with three seats, prefers to maintain the deal in the absence of compelling reasons to change it.
That leaves three independent directors a decisive say. Chung-Hua Institution Economic Research (中華經濟研究院) president Wu Chung-shu (吳中書), one of the three, said by telephone at 6pm that he was in the meeting, and could not be reached later.
Taiwan Life approached potential buyers over the last one-and-a-half years, saying its major shareholders prefer to be purely investors rather than operators amid an increasingly difficult business environment.
Taiwan Life shares fell 1.84 percent to NT$24 yesterday after closing down by the daily limit a day earlier, while CTBC shares ended down 0.51 percent to NT$19.35, Taiwan Stock Exchange data showed.
The insurer’s flip-flop reportedly has to do with Hong Kong businesswoman Maisy Ho (何超蕸), who has offered to buy a majority stake in Long Bon, local Chinese-language media reports said.