Tue, Dec 05, 2017 - Page 12 News List

Taiwan Financial unit to get cash injection

MERITED?Some lawmakers questioned whether the insurer’s sales strategies deserved the capital increase, but Taiwan Financial chairman Joseph Lyu defended his company’s subsidiary

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

The legislature’s Finance Committee yesterday approved plans by Taiwan Financial Holding Co (台灣金控) to inject new capital into its life insurance unit to shore up its capital and ease the burden of negative interest spreads.

The lawmakers gave their go-ahead after reviewing the budget plans of state-owned financial service providers, which also includes the Land Bank of Taiwan (土地銀行) and the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China (中國輸出入銀行).

Taiwan Financial proposed adding NT$10 billion (US$332.93 million) to the capital of Bank Taiwan Life Insurance Co (台銀人壽) whose capital adequacy ratio has fallen to 168 percent — lower than the 200 percent requirement — as losses widen this year, Taiwan Financial chairman Joseph Lyu (呂桔誠) told lawmakers.

Pre-tax losses at the insurer stood at NT$3 billion and could balloon to about NT$4 billion this year, as the New Taiwan dollar’s appreciation could result in foreign exchange losses, Lyu said.

Meanwhile, negative interest spreads from insurance policies sold in previous years continue to be a drag on profitability, Lyu said.

Bank Taiwan Life’s risk-based capital would rise to between 240 and 250 percent following the capital injection next year, allowing it to meet regulatory requirements, Lyu said.

Negative interest spreads, which cost NT$110 billion in 2014 and 2015, might be contained in the next three years after savings-like policies mature, he said.

Before 2013, Bank Taiwan Life sold large volumes of six-year insurance policies with guaranteed interest rates as high as 6 percent, Lyu said, adding that the company needs to lift its cash position levels to meet potential redemption requirements in the next two years.

Redemption costs might drop below NT$10 billion thereafter, allowing the insurer more financial flexibility to improve profitability, he said.

The company aims to increase its holdings in US dollars, from 13 to 30 percent of its foreign-currency assets, to mitigate the effect of foreign currency volatility, he said.

Because the government owns a 100 percent stake in Taiwan Financial, its major decisions are subject to oversight by lawmakers. Some of the lawmakers questioned whether Bank Taiwan Life merited a capital increase in light of its poor sales strategies and financial statements.

Lyu defended the subsidiary, saying Bank Taiwan Life could not afford to hire expensive actuaries to conduct cost analyses prior to the launch of insurance policies due to wage constraints.

The government should allow state-owned financial institutions greater independence in setting compensation levels so that they can hire better qualified professionals and enhance their earnings ability, other lawmakers said.

Employees at state-owned financial institutions have been subject to the same pay freeze as other civil servants in recent years.

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