Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) has defended the appointment of Rick Tsai (蔡力行) to the position of chairman of Chunghwa Telecom (CHT), saying the move was based on the belief he could turn the company into an international firm.
Yeh added that the decision to appoint the former CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was finalized after consulting with Executive Yuan officials.
The appointment had caused concern with Chunghwa Telecom Workers’ Union, which questioned both workers’ rights under Tsai and the possible selling off of the “last mile” network.
In an interview with the radio host Clara Chou (周玉蔻) on Friday, Yeh said that the search for a successor to Chunghwa’s Lee Yen-sung (李炎松), who is scheduled to retire next month, had taken six months.
“Most of my friends in academia and the industry recommended Tsai,” he said. “I consulted many people, including the Premier, Vice Premier and Minister Without Portfolio Simon Chang (張善政), before I made the decision.”
Yeh added: “I visited Tsai many times to persuade him to lead one of the nation’s most important corporations, turn it into an international firm and restructure the telecoms industry.”
Yeh said he had not talked to Tsai about the “Last Mile” — the network that delivers connectivity to retail customers — and whether the network should be made a separate asset from the company and opened up to other telecoms.
The union fears Tsai would implement a performance review process to remove workers, similar to the one it says he in introduced at TSMC.
In other developments, Chou asked Yeh to respond to Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp chairman Ou Chin-der (歐晉德), who on Thursday said that high-speed rail prices could decrease further if the company’s concession was extended.
Yeh replied that Ou’s explanation was simply “unacceptable.”
“When the government was recruiting a contractor to build the high speed rail, it specifically stated that the concession period was 35 years,” he said.
“The fundamental problem facing the high speed rail is that the five original shareholders failed to provide adequate funding, which in turned caused the company to borrow huge loans from banks and issue preferred stocks,” Yeh added.
“What the company should do is to write off its debt of about NT$50 billion, with the major shareholders reducing the capital and raising the required capital again,” he said.
After this, we can discuss the possibility of extensions and help turn the company into a publicly traded firm,” Yeh said.
“If the ministry simply extended the concession period causing ticket prices to drop, it would only benefit the investors,” he added.