Aug 2, 2005

Singapore, Inc. wants a slice of Taiwanese banking pie

Flipping through the finance pages of the Taiwanese papers, one seldoms sees anything related to Singapore, so lately the news of Temasek wanting to buy a 17.5% stake in Chang Hwa Commercial Bank raised not a few eyebrows.

State-run Chang Hwa Commercial Bank's (彰銀) shares yesterday nudged up by 1.06 percent to close at NT$19.0 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, after Singapore-based Temasek Holdings reaffirmed its intention to buy the bank's stakes last week.

To secure the support of Chang Hwa's current management, Taishin Financial Holding Co (台新金控), which became the bank's largest shareholder after winning the tender for a 22-percent stake last month, said yesterday that it would support the bank's head in retaining his post.

But faced with such an aggressive courtship by an outsider, the Taiwan government decided that it was better that one of the oldest financial institutions in Taiwan marry within the country. Probably the Taiwan government hasn't forgotten the anti-Taiwanese, pro-China rhetoric that LHL has been spewing of late. Guess money alone doesn't buy everything, does it?

Nevertheless, Singapore's government-owned Temasek Holdings Ltd, previously the most likely tender winner, reportedly offered in a letter to Chang Hwa's board members last week to buy the bank's common shares and the government's 17.5-percent stake for NT$21.5 per share, leaving Taishin Financial's triumph uncertain.

"We did receive the letter and have written back to Temasek," Chang said yesterday. He however declined to elaborate on the content of the feedback, citing confidentiality.

Temasek's efforts appear to have a slim chance of success, as the Ministry of Finance is unlikely to go back on its promise that the bid winner would be granted preference over the purchase of the government's stake in the bank next year.

1 comment:

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