Carrefour SA yesterday announced it would acquire Wellcome Taiwan Co (惠康百貨) for 97 million euros (US$108.33 million), and bring all the Wellcome supermarkets (頂好超市) and Jasons Market Place stores nationwide under its banner within 12 months of the deal closing. The France-based hypermarket chain reached an agreement with Hong Kong-based Dairy Farm International Holdings (牛奶國際控股), the pan-Asian retailer that launched Wellcome Taiwan in 1987. The transaction involves 199 Wellcome supermarkets, which have average sales areas of 420m2 and 25 high-end Jasons Market Place stores, which have an average sales area of 820m2, as well as a warehouse in Taoyuan, Carrefour Taiwan (家樂福) said in a statement. Carrefour Taiwan would continue to run the 224 stores it is gaining under the deal, but would consider whether to adjust their locations as their leases mature, a Carrefour Taiwan official told the Taipei Times by telephone. However, it plans to place the Wellcome outlets under its Carrefour Market (家樂福便利購) banner within one year of the deal being finalized, and convert the Jasons Market Place outlets to a Carrefour premium banner, given most of those stores are located in shopping malls and department stores, said the official, who declined to be named. “We would have different strategies to operate the two supermarket chains, as they target different groups of customers and offer different products,” the official said. Carrefour Taiwan has not decided how it would handle the employees of the two supermarket chains, the official added. Carrefour Taiwan currently operates 137 stores nationwide: 68 hypermarkets and 69 supermarkets. It expects to accelerate its development in the supermarket industry, Carrefour Taiwan said. Once the deal goes through, Carrefour Taiwan would have 361 outlets, which would make it the second-largest supermarket chain operator in Taiwan in terms of sales, behind Pxmart Co Ltd (全聯實業), the official said. “By combining these businesses, customers and team members
Scooter sales rose 4.1 percent last month, driven by rising demand from graduating students and Mother’s Day marketing campaigns, statistics showed yesterday. Sales reached 69,242 units, up from 66,487 in April, and an increase of 0.39 percent over the 68,976 units sold in May last year, data released by Kwang Yang Motor Co (光陽工業) and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications showed. “Entering the graduation season, demand was fueled mostly by graduating students, who bought new scooters for work or commuting. The effect was even more marked in the middle of May,” said Kwang Yang, the nation’s biggest scooter manufacturer, which sells scooters under its KYMCO brand. Gasoline-powered scooters took a bigger share, 90.7 percent, of the sales, up from 86.75 percent in April, while sales of electric scooters accounted for 9.3 percent, down from 13.25 percent, mainly due to a major shift in the government’s subsidy policy for new scooter purchases. Subsidiaries for buying a new scooter to replace one being retired previously applied just to electric models in the past few years, but would now apply to any type. Sales by electric scooter maker Gogoro Inc (睿能創意) tumbled 28 percent to 5,244 units from April’s 7,296, a decline of 55 percent from the previous year. Gogoro last week introduced a flat rate of NT$299 a month on new batteries for the first year a buyer of a Gogoro VIVA series scooter owns the model. Electric scooter sales, including those from Aeon Motor Co (宏佳騰) and Motive Power Industry Co (摩特動力), dropped 26.73 percent to 6,455 units. Kwang Yang posted the strongest growth, 12 percent and 23,751 units, which is attributable to the launches of new gasoline-powered models that meet the government’s Phase 7 emissions standards. Kwang Yang said that it expects scooter sales to recover at a faster pace this month as COVID-19 fears ease. The
OVERSEAS LOSSES: Profitability last year fell to NT$97 million, compared with 2018’s NT$1.94 billion, but CEC’s head said it has a backlog worth 3.5 years of turnover
Top Continental Holdings Corp (CHC, 欣陸控股) officials yesterday pledged that the company would emerge stronger from overseas investment losses last year that saw the group’s profitability plummet 95 percent from its 2018 earnings. Profitability last year was NT$97 million (US$3.23 million), or earnings per share (EPS) of NT$0.12, compared with NT$1.94 billion and EPS of NT$2.36 the previous year. As of this year, losses linked to projects in India and overseas investments would no longer impact the group’s civil engineering subsidiary, Continental Engineering Corp (CEC, 大陸工程), CHC chief executive Cindy Chang (張方欣) told a media briefing in Taipei ahead of the group’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Friday next week. The conglomerate also owns Continental Development Corp (CDC, 大陸建設) and HDEC Corp (欣達環工), which specializes in wastewater treatment. ENGINEERING PLANS CEC chief executive officer Simon Buttery said that the company closed last year with a NT$70 billion backlog, equivalent to three-and-a-half years of turnover, and in line with its strategic business growth plan through 2025. A sizeable proportion of the backlog came from new contracts, including the Taoyuan MRT Project and Nangang Depot Public Housing project, Buttery said. He is confident Taiwan would make further investment in civil infrastructure, he added. NEW OPPORTUNITIES CEC would explore civil opportunities related to conventional and renewable energy, as well as business opportunities from building demand in the residential and hospitality sectors, he said. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply of construction materials and workers for projects in Hong Kong, but the situation might stabilize in the second half of the year, Buttery said. To mitigate the global shortage of construction manpower, CEC is looking at new technologies to reduce its dependence on human labor, he said. CDC chairman Christopher Chang (張良吉) said the group’s development arm sold NT$5.9 billion of properties in Taiwan last year, a 28 percent increase from 2018. PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT CDC plans
Trade groups yesterday welcomed the government’s NT$50 billion-plus (US$1.67 billion) stimulus coupon program, saying it would help invigorate consumer spending. The General Chamber of Commerce (GCC, 全國商業總會) said the coupons, though less convenient than cash, would help boost consumer confidence and benefit business in all sectors. The Executive Yuan yesterday announced that citizens and foreign spouses of citizens who hold residency permits would be able to buy NT$3,000 coupons for NT$1,000. Orders would be taken starting on July 1, and the coupons could be used from July 15 through the end of the year, officials said. The program is intended to boost private consumption amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The coupons could end up being worth about NT$4,600, given the promotions and discounts being planned by the retailers and outlets that are to accept them, Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) said. Given that there are 23 million Taiwanese and 150,000 foreign spouses, the overall impact could top NT$100 billion, Chu said. GCC chairman Lai Cheng-i (賴正鎰) said the coupons could achieve business of more than NT$1 trillion, as stores, restaurants, hotels and recreational facilities would launch their own promotional campaigns to attract consumers. People feel more comfortable going out now that Taiwan has had no new domestic COVID-19 cases for 50 consecutive days, Lai said. The National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (中小企業協會) said the coupon program would send a signal that it is safe for people to shop, travel domestically and visit public spaces. Many people have stayed home for months and would participate in more leisure activities once they get the green light, the association said, adding that it expects people would end up spending more than NT$3,000 per person when they use the coupons.
A strike yesterday by hundreds of Vietnamese migrant workers angered by what they said was an illegal pay cut at Compal Electronics Inc’s (仁寶) plant in Taoyuan’s Pingzhen District (平鎮) was resolved with the help of the Taoyuan Department of Labor. The dispute between the world’s leading contract notebook computer manufacturer and workers at its Pingzhen plant led workers to rally outside the plant. Father Peter Van Hung Nguyen, founder of the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office, said the workers claimed Compal had unjustly increased its deductions for food and lodging from NT$2,500 (US$86.54) per month to NT$4,000. Workers were also unhappy by what they said was an unexplained NT$6,000 deduction in their pay for this month, Nguyen said. Compal denied making illegal wage cuts, saying that the deductions, which include income tax, insurance premiums and food and accommodation expenses, were carried out according to the law and related regulations. The labor department backed the company, saying the increase in food and lodging expenses had been outlined in the contracts the workers signed with the firm. The dispute over the NT$6,000-plus deduction was due to poor communications, the department said in a statement. That deduction was to cover their income tax for the first half of the year, which the company collects and pays to the central government. To clarify and simplify matters, Compal would revise its income tax collection policy, and take monthly deductions to cover taxes instead of once every six months, the department said. The workers also complained about their dormitory accommodations and facilities. Compal said it had complied with laws and regulations on accommodations, but it promised to improve the working and living conditions for its migrant work staff. It also promised to do its best when negotiating and communicating with the migrant workers.
BETTER THAN EXPECTED: The pandemic prompted working from home, remote learning and online schooling, boosting demand for laptops, the firm said
Elan Microelectronics Corp (義隆電子), which supplies touchpad controller and fingerprint sensors, yesterday reported 63 percent year-on-year growth in revenue for last month as the COVID-19 pandemic stimulated demand for laptops and boosted consumption of the company’s products. Consolidated revenue jumped to a historic high of NT$1.23 billion (US$41.02 million) last month from NT$751.93 million the previous year. On a monthly basis, revenue increased 17.9 percent from NT$1.04 billion. Touchpad modules made up half of the company’s sales last month, Elan Microelectronics said. In the first five months of the year, cumulative revenue increased 34.27 percent to NT$4.47 billion from NT$1.14 billion during the same period last year, company data showed. “Revenue significantly surpassed the company’s expectations,” Elan Microelectronics said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic prompted working from home, remote learning and online schooling, which changed the market’s seasonal pattern and boosted demand for laptops.” The global laptop market is usually supported mostly by replacement demand, as well as back-to-school demand in the third quarter, the company said. This year, “the second quarter will be the strongest quarter [of the year] based on demand from customers,” Elan Microelectronics chairman Yeh I-hau (葉儀皓) said last week. The momentum is likely to carry into next quarter, she said. Elan Microelectronics told an investors’ conference on April 28 that the world’s major computer vendors had increased orders significantly since March to meet strong demand and to replenish low inventories after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many nations to implement a lockdown. That demand would fuel second-quarter shipment growth for major products such as touchpad controllers, and touchscreen and fingerprint sensors, the company said at the time. The company posted a net profit of NT$54 million for the first quarter, down 86.8 percent year-on-year, due to a significant asset impairment loss from its more than 10 percent stake in FineMat Applied Materials Co (旭暉應材). Earnings per share
The number of shareholders of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, has increased by 131,232 so far this year, despite a 12 percent fall in its share price over the first five months, Taiwan Depository & Clearing Corp (TDCC, 台灣集保) data showed yesterday. As of Friday last week, TSMC had 498,724 shareholders, after attracting 131,232 over the five months since January, the data showed. TDCC said that 90.9 percent of the new investors were minority shareholders who hold 5,000 TSMC shares or fewer. The number of TSMC shareholders with 5,000 to 10,000 shares increased by 7,544 in the first five months, those with 10,000 to 15,000 shares grew by 1,832, and those with 15,000 to 20,000 shares increased by 1,030, TDCC said. The 260,459 shareholders who hold 1,000 to 5,000 TSMC shares account for a combined 1.9 percent stake in the company, while those who hold 1 million or more shares total 1,448 and account for an 89.94 percent stake in TSMC, the data showed. Minority shareholders bought about 177 million TSMC shares in the first five months of this year, lending support and helping to mitigate a net sale of 700 million shares by foreign institutional investors during the same period, Taiwan Stock Exchange data showed. TSMC’s share price has fallen 11.78 percent this year, amid global volatility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and US sanctions against China’s Huawei Technologies Inc (華為), one of its major clients. TSMC shares yesterday closed up 0.34 percent at NT$296.5 in Taipei trading. The company is scheduled to hold an annual general meeting on Tuesday next week to report to shareholders on its operations and outlook.
NetEase Inc (網易) is taking investor orders for a listing in Hong Kong that could raise as much as US$2.8 billion, which would be the world’s second-largest initial public offering this year. The company plans to sell 171 million new shares in its second listing before exercising the overallotment option, according to terms of the deal seen by Bloomberg. The offering by the NASDAQ-listed Chinese Internet company is already oversubscribed, people familiar with the matter said. It has set the maximum offer price at HK$126 per share, meaning it could raise as much as US$2.8 billion. NetEase’s listing comes as tensions between the US and China are intensifying. The US Senate on May 20 passed a bipartisan bill that could force major Chinese companies to stop trading their shares on US exchanges. US President Donald Trump on Friday last week announced other measures, including that US financial regulators would examine Chinese firms listed on US stock markets with an eye to limiting American investment in the companies. NetEase follows Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴), which raised US$13 billion in a homecoming listing last year, while JD.com Inc (京東) last week won approval from Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd for a US$2 billion offering. NetEase’s Hong Kong share sale represents about 5 percent of its total outstanding shares after the completion of the deal. The company is taking orders from institutional investors until tomorrow and retail investors until Friday, terms of the deal showed. It aims to price the offering on Friday before the US market opens and to begin trading on Thursday next week. NetEase plans to use the proceeds for global strategies and opportunities, to fund innovation and general corporate purposes. A NetEase representative declined to comment on the subscription of the offering.
EQUITIES TAIEX breaches 11,100 The TAIEX yesterday extended its momentum from a session earlier to close above 11,100 points, as buying was seen almost across the board, led by large-cap technology and financial shares. While the index breached the stiff technical resistance level ahead of the 120-day moving average of 11,087 points, turnover remained moderate, dealers said. The TAIEX closed up 48.91 points, or 0.44 percent, at 11,127.93. Turnover was NT$179.195 billion (US$5.98 billion). Foreign institutional investors bought a net NT$1.73 billion of shares, Taiwan Stock Exchange data showed. ELECTRONICS Yageo secures NT$48.5bn Yageo Corp (國巨), the world’s No. 3 supplier of multilayer ceramic capacitors, yesterday secured a syndicated loan of NT$48.5 billion from 22 lenders led by Bank of Taiwan (台灣銀行) and Mega International Commercial Bank (兆豐銀行). It was the biggest syndicated loan obtained by a local company in the past two years, Yageo said in a statement. The syndicated loan is 60 percent higher than the company’s original plan, it said. Yageo plans to use the loan to fund its expansion and the acquisition of US firm Kemet Corp. BANKING King’s Town income dips King’s Town Bank (京城銀行) yesterday posted net income of NT$328.89 million for last month, or earnings per share of NT$0.29, an 8.36 percent year-on-year decline. In the first five months of the year, consolidated net income decreased 39.25 percent year-on-year to NT$1.61 billion, or earnings per share of NT$1.44. The lender’s non-performing loan ratio was 0.02 percent as of Sunday, while its overdue loan coverage ratio was 9,044.26 percent and its loan loss provision ratio 1.4 percent. ELECTRONICS Hon Hai salaries decrease The average annual income of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) employees in Taiwan was NT$2.727 million last year, Market Observation Post System data showed. The figure included base salary, bonuses and stock dividends, and was a decrease from 2018’s
COMMITMENT: A South Korean official said that there has been no progress in solving the dispute over curbs on trade in three chemicals due to Tokyo’s unwillingness to do so
Reigniting a bitter row between key US allies, South Korea yesterday said it would reopen a complaint filed with the WTO over Japan’s tightened controls on technology exports to its companies, blaming Tokyo for an alleged lack of commitment in resolving mutual grievances. South Korea had halted its WTO action in November last year when it decided to keep a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan that it previously threatened to end over conflicts stemming from wartime history and trade, after months of pressure by US President Donald Trump’s administration. Japan in return agreed to resume talks on settling a bilateral trade dispute, which was triggered by its move in July last year to strengthen export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies used to make computer chips and displays. However, Na Seung-sik, deputy minister of the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s Office of Trade and Investment, said there has been no progress since then because of what he described as Japan’s lack of willingness to settle the dispute. He said South Korea would request a WTO panel ruling over the issue and that the process would likely take more than a year. When imposing tighter controls over the three chemicals, Japan had cited unspecified security concerns over South Korea’s export controls on sensitive materials that could be used for military purposes. However, Na said there has been no known security problem related to the chemicals or products that involved them in the past 11 months. “Our government in the past six months sincerely engaged in dialogue and provided thorough and sufficient explanations so that the Japanese side could understand South Korea’s export controls are functioning normally and effectively,” Na said in a briefing. “Our thinking is that the process of bilateral consultations is over, and the next step would be for
South Korea’s economic contraction will worsen in the current quarter, the central bank forecast yesterday, as the coronavirus outbreak hits consumer demand and economic activity even harder. The Bank of Korea predicted the world’s 12th-biggest economy will shrink at least 2 percent in the April-June period over the previous three months. It already declined 1.3 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months, it said — a slight improvement from its first announcement in April of a 1.4 percent contraction, but still the biggest drop in the nation’s GDP since the 2008 global financial crisis. South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the coronavirus outside mainland China, and while it never imposed a compulsory lockdown, strict social distancing was widely observed from March until it started loosening restrictions last month. Private consumption decreased 6.5 percent in January-March from the previous quarter “as expenditures on goods and services both decreased,” the bank said. The country appears to have brought its epidemic under control thanks to an extensive “trace, test and treat” program and life is beginning to return to normal. However, the bank’s forecast last week that the economy would shrink 0.2 percent this year, a dramatic downgrade from its February forecast of 2.1 percent growth, and cut interest rates to a record low. The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Monday reported that exports posted another double-digit decline in last month in a sign of continuing pain from the pandemic, with the automobile sector among the worst hit. Overseas shipments fell 24 percent from a year earlier, slightly less than economists forecast. Shipments to China held up with just a 2.8 percent decline, while those to the US and the EU plummeted, the ministry said, adding that vehicle exports dropped more than half, while the value of auto parts shipments slipped by two-thirds.
PATTAYA PROJECT: A public-private partnership deal to build a third terminal at U-Tapao International Airport and add air cargo facilities is to be signed on June 19
Thailand’s Cabinet yesterday approved a bid by a consortium led by BTS Group Holdings PLC for an airport development project worth 290 billion baht (US$9 billion). The project would add a third passenger terminal at the U-Tapao International Airport near Pattaya, which in normal times is a tourist hot-spot, and develop other facilities like air cargo and aviation maintenance centers. The project is part of the Eastern Economic Corridor, a 1.7 trillion baht plan to build infrastructure and develop advanced industries along the eastern seaboard. The corridor is an attempt to bolster long-term investment to improve Thailand’s economic outlook, which has been badly damaged in the recent weeks by the novel coronavirus outbreak. Apart from BTS Group, the consortium includes Bangkok Airways PLC and Sino-Thai Engineering & Construction PLC. The public-private partnership contract is due to be signed on June 19. Narita International Airport Corp has been selected to manage the airport. BTS Group and Sino-Thai would handle construction, and Bangkok Airways would bring its aviation expertise, Eastern Economic Corridor Office Secretary-General Kanit Sangsubhan said. Kanit added that his office is in talks with DHL Worldwide Express and FedEx Corp for the air cargo business planned at the airport complex. Last year, a group led by Charoen Pokphand Group signed a contract to build high-speed rail connections between U-Tapao and the two international airports in Bangkok, one of the biggest transport upgrades in the country’s history. Officials expect U-Tapao to have capacity for as many as 60 million passengers per year once it is expanded. The plans for the airport and rail links were put in place before the coronavirus flared up and brought tourism to a standstill. Most international incoming flights are banned until the end of this month, and it remains unclear what tourism will look like when the curbs are eased. However, Thailand plans to create
The French economy is set to contract 11 percent this year due to the coronavirus crisis and more hard days lie ahead until things bounce back next year, French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire said yesterday. France imposed one of the Europe’s strictest lockdowns in mid-March and only began removing restrictions on May 11. “We were hard hit by the virus, we took effective measures to protect French people’s health, but the economy practically ground to a halt for three months,” Le Maire told RTL radio. “We’re going to pay for it with growth. A budget update being prepared would forecast a contraction of 11 percent versus the 8 percent forecast previously, he said. “There is no question of us raising taxes,” he said. “Yes, debt will have to be paid back, but not by raising taxes, by raising growth.” With about 300,000 cafes, bars and restaurants reopening yesterday, Le Maire said that they would continue to benefit from handouts from a government solidarity fund until the end of the year to help cover fixed costs, while the government would only gradually phase out its furlough program. “Even if it is hard to hear on a day when the sun is shining and the cafes are reopening, the hardest part is still ahead of us in social and economic terms,” Le Maire said. “The shock of the crisis was extremely violent in France.” The government is trying to avert a string of retail bankruptcies by seeking buyers for big clothing chains Camaieu, Conforama and La Halle, which employ thousands of people, he said. He said measures for the aerospace industry were being prepared for next week and would be followed by those for the start-up and building sectors, while in September, he would present another stimulus plan that would cut high taxes that firms
A new female billionaire has emerged from one of Asia’s most expensive breakups. Du Weimin (杜偉民), chairman of Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products Co (深圳康泰生物制品), transferred 161.3 million shares of the vaccine maker to his ex-wife, Yuan Liping (袁莉萍), according to a filing on Friday, immediately catapulting her into the ranks of the world’s richest. The stock was worth US$3.2 billion as of Monday’s close. Yuan, 49 this year, owns the shares directly, but signed an agreement delegating the voting rights to her ex-husband, the filing shows. The Canadian citizen, who resides in Shenzhen, served as a director of Kangtai between May 2011 and August 2018. She is now the vice general manager of subsidiary Beijing Minhai Biotechnology Co (北京民海生物科技). Yuan holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Beijing’s University of International Business and Economics. Kangtai shares have more than doubled in the past year and have continued their ascent since February, when the company announced a plan to develop a vaccine to fight the coronavirus. They slipped for a second day yesterday following news of the divorce terms, losing 3.1 percent as of 9:43am in Hong Kong and bringing the company’s market value to US$12.9 billion. Du’s net worth has now dropped to about US$3.1 billion from US$6.5 billion before the split, excluding his pledged shares. The 56-year-old Du was born into a farming family in Jiangxi Province. After studying chemistry in college, he began working in a clinic in 1987 and became a sales manager for a biotech company in 1995, according to the prospectus of Kangtai’s 2017 initial public offering. In 2009, Kangtai acquired Minhai, the company Du founded in 2004, and he became chairman of the combined entity. China’s rapidly growing economy has been an engine for the country’s richest, and Du is not the only tycoon who has had to pay a
Plunging costs of renewables mark a turning point in a global transition to low-carbon energy, with new solar or wind farms increasingly cheaper to build than running existing coal plants, according to a report published yesterday. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said the attractive prices of renewables relative to fossil fuel power generation could help governments embrace green economic recoveries from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic. “We have reached an important turning point in the energy transition,” IRENA director-general Francesco La Camera said in a statement. Although scientists say the world needs to stage a much faster transition to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, the annual report, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019, by the Abu Dhabi-based agency shows that wind and solar are increasingly competitive on price alone. More than half of the renewable capacity added last year achieved lower power costs than the cheapest new coal plants, the report said. Auction results also suggest that the average cost of building new solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind power now costs less than keeping many existing coal plants running, reinforcing the case for phasing out coal, the report said. The authors also calculated that the world could save up to US$23 billion of power system costs per year by using onshore wind and solar PV to replace the most expensive 500 gigawatts of coal-fired power, mostly found in China, India, Ukraine, Poland, South Korea, Japan, Germany and the US. Such a switch would also reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by about the equivalent of 5 percent of last year’s total emissions, the report said. Next year, up to 1,200 gigawatts of existing coal capacity could prove more expensive to operate than the cost of building new utility-scale solar PV farms, the report said.
AGRICULTURE Some US-PRC sales still on US soybean exporters sold several cargoes to Chinese state-run buyers, according to people familiar with the matter, showing that some transactions are still going through even after officials in Beijing ordered a pause in some purchases. Shippers sold as many as four cargoes of US soybeans from the new crop, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information is private. State-run stockpiler China Grain Reserves Corp Group Ltd (中儲糧集團) was bidding earlier for Pacific Northwest cargoes, the people said. BANKING ANZ selling USD Finance Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) yesterday agreed to sell its New Zealand-based asset finance unit for NZ$762 million (US$479 million) to Japanese financial institution Shinsei Bank Ltd. Australia’s fourth-largest lender said the sale of UDC Finance provides about A$439 million (US$298.08 million) of Level 2 Group CET1 capital. Shinsei Bank said that its consolidated capital adequacy ratio is expected to decline about 0.4 percentage points once it acquires UDC Finance. The sale is expected to be sealed in the second half of the year. AUSTRALIA RBA holds rates steady The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) yesterday kept its interest rate and yield objectives unchanged as an abatement of COVID-19 outbreak allows the economy to begin reopening. Bank Governor Philip Lowe maintained both the cash rate and three-year yield targets at 0.25 percent, as expected. The bank sharply tapered bond buying last month as financial markets calmed and COVID-19 infections dwindled. Meantime, a gauge of consumer confidence advanced yesterday for a ninth straight week. REAL ESTATE UK house prices plunge Britain’s house prices last month fell by the most in more than 11 years as the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the market, mortgage lender Nationwide said yesterday. Prices fell by 1.7 percent last month from April, the biggest monthly decline since February 2009, it
‘NOT AS WORRIED’: Companies are conservative about business and hesitate to speculate on a recovery, as outbreaks remain out of control in many countries
The COVID-19 pandemic last month continued to weigh on business across nearly all sectors, dragging the official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) to a record low, the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER, 中華經濟研究院) said yesterday. The PMI shed 2.8 points to 44.8, the worst showing since the launch of the survey in July 2012, as all manufacturing sectors reported declines in business, the survey found. PMI aims to gauge the manufacturing industry’s health, with points higher than 50 indicating business expansion and values lower than the threshold suggesting contraction. It was the second consecutive month it has retreated, with makers of electronics and biotech products no longer immune to the effects of the virus, the Taipei-based think tank said. “Firms are generally conservative about business, although not as worried as during the height of the outbreak,” CIER president Chang Chuang-chang (張傳章) told an online media briefing. Still, firms hesitate to speculate on a recovery, as uncertainty remains high and virus infections have not yet been brought under control in many parts of the world, Chang said. The sub-index on new business orders fell to 35.9, the reading on industrial output slumped to 36.8 and the measure on new export orders tumbled to 34.4, the survey found. Firms reduced headcount levels, accounting for a 3.2 point drop in the employment sub-index, it said. However, inventory levels stayed high, driven by fears of potential supply chain disruptions, it said. The inventory gauge and clients’ inventory readings rose 0.8 points and 4.5 points respectively to 51.3 and 55, a record high, CIER said. Academia Sinica Institute of Economics director Kamhon Kan (簡錦漢) said high inventory levels without corresponding order growth is not a healthy signal and might lead to supply gluts later. However, Supply Management Institute in Taiwan (中華採購與供應管理協會) executive director Steve Lai (賴樹鑫) provided a positive interpretation, saying that high inventory
SCATTERED: Production would be dispersed among a number of countries, which would bring an end to so-called world factories, Hon Hai chairman Young Liu said
Decentralized production would be the new focus in manufacturing, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) chairman Young Liu (劉揚偉) yesterday told an online forum held by the Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC, 產業情報研究所). “The COVID-19 pandemic exerted a heavy impact on supply chains as well as production ... [production] would no longer be concentrated in solely one country, this is the end of what we used to call world factories,” Liu said during a panel discussion hosted by MIC director Victor Tsan (詹文男). As the US and China continue to dominate and sway international relations, the rest of the world is now more than ever focused on developing their economies, which would help to divide labor, Liu said. “I think all countries have come to the realization following the coronavirus outbreak that manufacturing remains essential [to economic development],” Liu said. He pointed to the US as an example, alluding to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (TSMC, 台積電) pledge to set up an advanced wafer foundry in Arizona. Hon Hai also has a project to build an LCD fab in Wisconsin. Claiming more than 16 production sites around the world, Hon Hai has over the past two years accelerated its relocation to popular manufacturing destinations, such as India and Vietnam, but its principal operations remain in China, which accounts for about 70 percent of sales. However, electronics manufacturer Qisda Corp (佳世達) chairman and president Peter Chen (陳其宏) offered a different view. “The current manufacturing landscape is unlikely to change in the short term. Why? The cost,” Chen said, adding that “it decides everything from consumer behavior to company competitiveness.” Nevertheless, Chen acknowledged the importance of risk-diverting strategies that involve production relocation. Pointing to the company’s three-step plan, Chen said Qisda last year moved part of its production to Taiwan in anticipation of rising trade tensions between the US and China. Due
New vehicle sales rose 8.8 percent month-on-month to 33,528 last month as consumers were more willing to visit showrooms as the COVID-19 situation in Taiwan steadily improved, Web site U-car reported yesterday. Compared with the spread of the disease elsewhere, the situation in Taiwan has been relatively under control and the nation has not recorded any locally transmitted cases since April 12, Central Epidemic Command Center data showed. However, the local market was inevitably affected by the pandemic as new vehicle sales declined 11.4 percent last month from a year earlier, and cumulative sales in the first five months fell 0.2 percent year-on-year to 168,396, U-car said, citing data compiled by the Directorate-General of Highways. Major brands, such as Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co, posted sales declines of more than 10 percent from a year earlier. Sales at Mercedes-Benz fell 23.6 percent year-on-year last month, while those at Lexus increased 43.4 percent, the data showed. Hotai Motor Co (和泰汽車), which distributes Toyota and Lexus vehicles in Taiwan, reported sales of 11,119 vehicles last month. The dealer led the local market with a market share of 33.2 percent. China Motor Corp (中華汽車), which distributes Mitsubishi sedans and its own CMC commercial vehicles, came in second with sales of 3,841 vehicles, while Yulon Nissan Motor Co (裕隆日產), which sells Nissan and Infiniti vehicles, ranked third with sales of 2,592 vehicles, the data showed. Combined sales of imported vehicles — such as those of Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Audi, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and Mazda Motor Corp — last month decreased 7.4 percent year-on-year to 16,639 vehicles, accounting for 49.63 percent of the overall market, the data showed.
Former D-Link Corp (友訊科技) chairman John Lee (李中旺) is to resume his post at the company, replacing Lori Hu (胡雪), after a special shareholders’ meeting in Taipei yesterday voted to reinstate him. Convened by two independent members of D-Link’s board of directors — Chung Shyang-fong (鍾祥鳳) and Fong Chung-peng (馮忠鵬) — the meeting resulted in the dismissal of Hu along with five other members, with more than 70 percent of votes in favor of the move. Lee was also elected as the company’s new chairman. Thanking shareholders for their support, Lee said he aims to stabilize the company’s management and resume operations as soon as possible before the next shareholders’ meeting due on June 15. However, Lee was denied entry to D-Link headquarters later yesterday. Accompanied by Chung, Fong and his lawyer, Lee was confronted by Hu’s son, Howard Kao (高宏毅), who blocked their way, insisting that Lee come back when D-Link’s registration with the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Department of Commerce has been modified. The developments followed reports of a management crisis at D-Link, with company executives and board members forming two opposing camps. Aiming to turn the company around after continuous losses over the past few years, Lee, who previously served as chairman, vice chairman and chief executive officer at the company, earlier this year sought help from Taiwan Steel Group (台鋼). However, his move was met with strong resistance from Hu, who sought an alliance with Qisda Corp (佳世達) via D-Link subsidiary Alpha Networks Inc (明泰科技). Lee was last month dismissed from his chairman position at Alpha Networks and his vice chairman position at D-Link. The power struggle for D-Link leadership between Lee and Hu, and the camps they belong to, culminated in a fine of NT$300,000 for the company. The fine, levied last week by the Taiwan Stock Exchange (TWSE), came after D-Link’s board of directors decided