Efforts to resolve a dispute over the Taipei City Government’s disagreement with Taipei New Horizon Co (臺北文創) over royalties and management of an office building, store and hotel in the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park (松山文創園區) yesterday hit another snag, as the Ministry of Finance (MOF) questioned the legality of Eslite Group’s (誠品集團) plan to acquire the superficies rights to its operations in the complex.
The bookstore-turned-conglomerate on Monday unveiled plans to buy the lease for the Eslite Spectrum Songyan Store (誠品生活松菸店) and Eslite Hotel (誠品行旅) from Taipei New Horizon Co, which was founded by the Fubon Group (富邦集團) to manage the complex, to end the controversy.
However, the ministry said the proposal could violate investment rules regarding build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
Tseng Kuo-chi (曾國基), the head of the ministry’s department of private participation promotion, poured cold water on Eslite Group’s scheme.
“The move could violate the law governing government promotion of private participation in infrastructure projects, which forbids lease transfers in the absence of major flaws,” he said by telephone.
Major flaws include serious delays in construction work or bad management, but neither of these conditions apply in this case, Tseng said.
In addition, Eslite Group, as a tenant, is not in a position to alter the contract between the Taipei City Government and Taipei New Horizon, he said.
“All Eslite can do is propose changes in the contract. It is up to the city government and Taipei New Horizon to work out the legal compliance issue,” Tseng said.
The park’s BOT project included the development of an office building, a department store and a hotel, and the city government signed contracts with two Fubon Group affiliates, Fubon Land Development Co (富邦建設) and Taiwan Mobile Co (台灣大哥大).
Critics have recently complained that Taipei New Horizon had leased the store and hotel to Eslite Group at an unreasonably low price.
Eslite Group vice chairwoman Mercy Wu (吳旻潔) on Monday said the group proposed to pay a 0.5 percent royalty based on the store’s annual revenues and an extra royalty for the hotel based on an average room occupancy rate of 60 percent, after buying the superficies rights.
While the ministry has no jurisdiction over the matter except to interpret the law, it can do things to make sure all public and private agencies meet their legal obligation, Tseng said.
The ministry would step in if necessary, he added.
Additional reporting by Amy Su
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