EasyCard Corp’s ownership structure should be adjusted to increase either the public or private proportions of ownership, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said yesterday.
Since it was founded in 2000, EasyCard has grown into one of the largest corporations run by the Taipei City Government. The city government holds a 40 percent stake in the firm, whose eponymous card has evolved from a public transport pass into a tool to make small purchases at numerous outlets.
“The problem is that EasyCard is not wholly publicly owned, even though it has strong monopoly power,” Ko said. “If we push to enable the card to be used in taxis, night markets and everywhere else, the firm’s returns could double in a year, but the problem is that half of the money it earns will be paid out to private investors.”
He said the current ownership structure of the corporation was a “huge problem,” adding that he had instructed EasyCard chairman Tai Chi-chuan (戴季全) to come up with a proposal in six months to either turn the firm into a privately run corporation or increase public control.
Tai said that movement in either direction was possible, but more internal discussion was needed before a decision could be made.
Taipei City Council caucus whip Rosalia Wu (吳思瑤) of the Democratic Progressive Party said she supported privatizing the corporation while ending its monopoly as a way to ensure consumers receive better service and more benefits.
Even though the corporation uses taxpayer money to invest and also benefits from city government sponsorship, it has made little public contribution, dragging its feet on a loyalty program to provide user dividends and failing to rigorously pursue negotiations to allow the EasyCard to be used in private parking garages, Wu said.
Taipei City Councilor William Hsu (徐弘庭) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said that given EasyCard’s years of losses, it would be unfair to criticize private shareholders for taking their share of the firm’s profits.
He added that buying out present stockholders would be difficult, calling instead for the city government to take the corporation public in an initial public offering.
Meanwhile, 20 Ningxia Night Market vendors began accepting EasyCard payments yesterday, making it the first night market to install card readers.
Tai said the Financial Supervisory Commission last month dropped restrictions on the size of a vendor that could accept cards, enabling the corporation to begin pushing into the “mini-vendor” market.
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