Tue, Nov 28, 2006 - Page 1 News List

TAIEX soars to new high on Carlyle's bid for ASE

HORNETS' NEST A foreign approach for Advanced Semiconductor Engineering boosted the TAIEX, but fueled calls for the limit on investments in China to be relaxed

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AFP

The local benchmark index capped 10 consecutive days of gains by hitting a six-year high yesterday, spurred by the Carlyle Group's bid for Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE), the world's largest chip-testing and packaging company.

The TAIEX rose 70.79 points, or 0.95 percent, to 7,498.15 on turnover of NT$127.17 billion (US$3.89 billion), marking its highest close since Sept. 6, 2000.

Foreign investors bought a net NT$16.02 billion of shares yesterday, boosting net purchases to NT$88.57 billion since the beginning of this month.

"International acquisition activities are an inevitable trend," Ann Chang (張慈恩), vice president of JF Asset Management Taiwan, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Taiwanese stocks that boast healthy fundamentals are relatively cheaper than those in neighboring markets like Hong Kong, making them attractive to foreign investors and private equity funds like the Carlyle Group, Chang said.

The market watcher expects the injection of overseas funds to continue for the foreseeable future, spurring the local equity market, which has lagged behind other Asian markets.

Shares of ASE rose by the 7 percent daily limit to close at NT$37.95, bringing it closer to Carlyle's offer of NT$39 per share.

Encouraging

"[Investors] have been encouraged by the Carlyle bid. It is not a surprise at all. [ASE's] share price is expected to increase [again] on Tuesday [today]," said Fuh-Hwa Securities Investment and Trust analyst Bentham Hung.

Over the weekend, ASE said it had received an indication of interest from a consortium of investors led by Carlyle of the US on a potential offer to acquire all outstanding ASE shares.

At NT$39 per share, the deal values ASE at US$5.46 billion.

ASE chairman and chief executive officer Jason Chang (張虔生) agreed, subject to certain conditions, to commit his 18.4 percent ASE stake to the deal, the company said.

"The Carlyle bid for ASE is likely to trigger a series of takeovers by foreign investors in Taiwan's high-tech sector, using the island as a springboard into the huge mainland [China] market," an analyst with a regional brokerage said.

If the Carlyle bid succeeds, regulations dictate that ASE will be delisted from the local stock market.

Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) spokeswoman Susan Chang (張秀蓮) said the commission would monitor the "unusual case," as ASE announced the share sale before applying to the commission.

Chang said there was also some concern that a series of foreign takeovers of local listed companies could see the stock market stripped of its top companies.

Citing institutional investor research, local media reported yesterday that 30 local companies, including the world's second-largest contract chip maker, United Microelectronics Corp, along with Acer Inc and Chunghwa Picture Tubes, had been targeted by suitors.

Maintaining an edge

Eager to maintain its edge over rivals in an industry led by Amkor Technology Inc, ASE was expected to use the foreign takeover -- if it went through -- to bypass the government's restrictions on investments in China, dealers said.

Under the nation's current policy on China-bound investments, local companies are only allowed to invest up to 40 percent of their net worth on the mainland.

Critics have called for a relaxation of this regulation which ties the hands of local businesses, while their rivals from around the world face no such restrictions.

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