KMT lawmaker criticizes Sino-Swearingen funding

AP , TAIPEI

Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 11

A struggling government-funded aircraft company in the US should be shut down if it can't raise new funds in the private sector, an opposition lawmaker said yesterday.

Taiwanese officials acknowledge that despite an investment of more than US$500 million since its establishment in 1996, the Sino-Swearingen Co of Martinsburg, West Virginia, will only deliver its first SJ30-2 six-seat corporate jet this month.

The aircraft carries a price tag of about US$6.5 million.

The Taiwanese government is the majority share holder in Sino-Swearingen and appoints its top management. The venture's other big equity holder is Swearingen Aircraft Co of San Antonio, Texas.

"The government of Taiwan should not pour more money into the company, and if it cannot finance itself it should shut down," Lai Shyi-bao (賴士葆) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said.

On Monday Vice Economics Minister Steve Chen (陳瑞隆) said Sino-Swearingen plans to raise up to US$150 million through a US investment bank after the Taiwanese government invests an additional US$15 million, which he indicated would be the last Taiwanese funding it receives.

A Taiwanese official said that while Sino-Swearingen has the ability to produce a high-quality, competitive product, management problems and the loss of critical engineering and other talent were impeding its ability to function properly.

Taiwan originally invested in the SJ30-2 project as part of its efforts to build up the island's aerospace industry, in the hope that many of the jet's components would be subcontracted to Taiwanese manufacturers.