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Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 18 News List

Merger of bank triumvirate gets second wind

BANKING Officials from the Ministry of Finance would neither confirm nor deny a recent report that three state-owned banks were again discussing a merger

By Stanley Chou  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Minister of Finance Sean Chen (陳沖) yesterday confirmed the possibility of a merger between three state-owned banks. According to Chen a merger between Bank of Taiwan (台灣銀行), Land Bank of Taiwan (土地銀行) and Central Trust of China (中央信託局) could be announced as early as this week.

"Since the impact of the merger among the three state banks would be much smaller [than other state-controlled bank mergers], as long as the heads of the three state-owned banks agree to the merger, the ministry will announce it at the appropriate time," Chen said yesterday afternoon.

Also yesterday, Minister of Finance Yen Ching-chang (顏慶章) neither denied nor admitted the possibility of a merger among the three.

"No bank merger will be announced before the 15th of this month," Yen said yesterday.

The minister had earlier stressed that each of the three banks in question first had to incorporate before the finance ministry would approve their merger. "It's impossible to reveal the merger until the three banks finalize incorporation procedures," Chen said.

However, yesterday Yen did not refute the recent rumor that the ministry was reviving plans for a merger among the triumvirate.

Local media reported on Sunday that a merger among the three state-owned banks would be revived after being dropped last year. The report said that because the state controls 100 percent of the three banks, it was likely that the possibility of a merger would be revived.

"The ministry would first inform the heads of the three state banks as to the current situation," Chen said.

"Then the ministry would leave the bank heads to discuss the by themselves the possibility of merging. It's presently under discussion. The ministry also will not rule out the possibility of another merger combination between state-controlled banks."

In addition, since neither Bank of Taiwan, Land Bank of Taiwan nor Central Trust of China are listed on the TAISDAQ, fewer regulations would be involved -- a primary concern of the ministry.

Yen said earlier that if the merger involved state-controlled banks that had listed on the local bourse, it could affect their respective share prices. The ministry therefore has to be cautious when promoting merger activities among state-controlled banks, said Yen.

Most other state-controlled banks have been privatized in recent years, and many private shareholders have been against such mergers.

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