Lawmakers on the legislature’s Finance Committee yesterday said they are unhappy with the Financial Supervisory Commission’s reluctance to shed light on information related to recent controversies surrounding biotechnology company OBI Pharma Inc (台灣浩鼎).
At a closed-door meeting with the commission officials, lawmakers across party lines demanded to know the identities of investors and institutions who had sold short on OBI shares to take advantage of bearish bets, but to no avail.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator William Tseng (曾銘宗), the former commission chairman, had listed the identities of beneficial owners of two offshore entities found among OBI Pharma’s top 10 stakeholders, as well as investors and institutions involved in a spike in short interest in the company as prospects turned sour.
However, the commission said that it cannot provide details as prosecutors have launched investigations into alleged market manipulation and insider trading.
“The case remains murky without these key facts,” KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said.
Lai said the commission acknowledged that more than 4 million OBI Pharma shares were loaned to investors and institutions for short bets, with interest fees averaging between 7 percent and 12 percent, but that it refused to provide further details.
Lawmakers vowed to form a “document request committee” to obtain the facts they need.
OBI Pharma’s share price has gone through a precipitous tumble after the company announced discouraging results from a clinical trial for a new breast cancer vaccine on Feb. 21.
As the stock’s price tanked, allegations arose that a number of company executives and interested parties had profited by acting on non-public information, selling part of their holdings ahead of announcements that the drug’s third-phase clinical trials had shown “no statistical significance.”
The Chinese-language Next Magazine yesterday reported that prosecutors are looking into a number of institutions and active traders who borrowed NT$2.2 billion (US$68.01 million) worth of OBI shares for short sales. Many of the shares were loaned at exceedingly low interest rates of 0.01 percent, the report said, suggesting that the short sales were planned by the company’s major stakeholders.
The report also accused Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠), a close collaborator with the company, and OBI chairman Michael Chang (張念慈) of market manipulation.
Wong and Chang had publicly supported the company’s prospects in a bid to calm panicked retail investors to ensure maximum profits for short sellers, the report said.
Wong, who is currently on leave in the US, said in a statement released on Thursday last week that he sold 10,000 of his daughter’s OBI shares on her behalf on Feb. 18, on the advice of a stockbroker.
Lawmakers have demanded Wong return to Taiwan to explain his daughter’s OBI shareholding and how she sold shares just before prices tanked.
The commission said it is revising regulatory guidelines on biotechnology stocks to expand stock trading restrictions imposed on company insiders and raise awareness of risks associated with the sector’s make-or-break nature, where companies do not produce steady revenue streams leading up to the successful commercialization of new drugs.
Gogoro Inc (睿能創意) yesterday launched its first electric bicycle, the Gogoro Eeyo 1, in Taiwan, after unveiling the bike in New York in late May and in France on Tuesday. The company said it would also introduce the series in other European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. The “Eeyo project” is the fourth of Gogoro’s eight projects that concentrate on smart transportation, which includes Gogoro’s electric scooter, battery swap system and electric scooter sharing service, company founder and chief executive officer Horace Luke (陸學森) told a media briefing in Taipei. “There are various types of city commuters. We will not
EXPERIMENTAL DRUG: While news about a COVID-19 vaccine is more eye-catching, developing a treatment would be more viable, the Senhwa boss said Senhwa Biosciences Inc (生華科) aims to raise NT$1.5 billion (US$50.57 million) by issuing 15 million new common shares in the third quarter of this year to fund the research of new drugs, including the experimental drug Silmitasertib for the treatment of COVID-19, the company said on Monday. That would be the firm’s largest fundraising effort after it raised more than NT$1.4 billion from an initial public offering on the Taipei Exchange (TPEX) in April 2017, chief financial officer Sarah Chang (張小萍) told the Taipei Times by telephone. The price of the new shares would depend on the firm’s average share price
NOT A PANACEA: Offering 5G services would not solve the problem of declining telecom incomes, chairman Sheih Chi-mau said, expecting a flat 5G telecom revenue Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) yesterday became the nation’s first telecom to debut its 5G services, offering tiered tariffs that include a threshold of NT$599 and flat rates, as it aims to switch half of its subscribers to the 5G network within three years. Subscribers would have unlimited data transmission for monthly fees starting at NT$1,399 — the same flat rate as when the company launched its 4G service in 2014 — and they can subscribe to the highest-rate plan for NT$2,699 per month for faster data transmission speeds and larger bandwidth, the company said. Data transmission speeds would be within the range
STAYING AHEAD: TSMC expects its sales this year to grow 14 to 19 percent and could spend up to US$3.52 billion on research and development, leaving its rivals far behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) reported that the US last year approved 99 percent of its patent applications, which placed the tech giant among the top patent holders in the US. In its Corporate Social Responsibility Report, TSMC said it last year secured about 3,600 patents worldwide, including more than 2,300 in the US. As of the end of last year, TSMC owned more than 39,000 patents, the report said. The company last year filed almost 6,500 patent applications worldwide and ranked among the top 10 patent applicants in the US. In Taiwan, it was the largest patent applicant for the fourth