Officials obstruct Malaysian group’s bid for 101

By Enru Lin ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — It is looking less likely that Malaysia’s IOI Properties Group will be able proceed with its planned purchase of a 37.1-percent stake in Taipei 101, as high-level government officials line up against the transaction. Taiwan’s Ting Hsin International Group confirmed Saturday that it planned to sell its 37.1-percent stake in the Taipei Financial Center Corp. (TFCC), which operates Taipei 101, to IOI Properties for NT$25.14 billion (US$808 million). The acquisition requires final approval by the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ (MOEA) Investment Commission (���f�|). Central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (�^�a�n), Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman Tseng Ming-chung (���ʩv) and Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ford (�i���M) each objected to the deal yesterday. At the Legislative Yuan, the finance minister said that the skyscraper should be controlled by domestic investors because it is an iconic Taipei landmark and a ��symbol of the Taiwanese spirit.�� The Malaysia group’s plan is not a straightforward financial investment, as it has also made inquiries with other Taipei 101 stakeholders and appears to be seeking management control, he said. ��It is best if the management of the building remains in the hands of our own people,�� Chang said, adding that the finance ministry will present its objections to the MOEA. Perng, the central bank governor, said that if no law mandates that the Taipei 101 shares remain with domestic investors, ��we should see if there is another way�� to ensure it.

Tseng echoed Perng and said the Financial Supervisory Commission will submit its position to the MOEA’s Investment Commission. Perng, Tseng and Chang made the remarks yesterday during an interpellation session at the Legislative Yuan. Also yesterday, Premier Mao Chi-kuo (���v��) said he asked regulatory officials to review the transaction with rigor and has urged Ting Hsin ��not to violate the public’s expectations.�� The comments came after four KMT lawmakers issued a statement Sunday urging the newly appointed premier to reject the stake sale deal using Article 7 of the Statute for Investment by Foreign Nationals (�~���H��������). Article 7 provides for the rejection of transactions that have an adverse impact on national security, public order, moral health, positive social customs or public health.

‘A most stringent review’ At a press conference yesterday, the Investment Commission said it has not yet received Ting Hsin’s application to transfer its stake. Once Ting Hsin submits the paperwork, the Investment Commission will complete a review within two months, said its Deputy Executive Secretary Emile Chang (�i���y). The case will be subjected to a ��most stringent review�� that accounts for public interest, social perception and expectations of the people, he said. Chang added that the Investment Commission has 20 members and that the deal must be approved unanimously or be returned. As a landmark, Taipei 101 has a special significance in Taiwan. Ting Hsin, which is accused of edible oil fraud, has an obligation to repair the national reputation that will be taken into consideration during review proceedings, he said. Ting Hsin has come under pressure to shed assets after the central government urged local banks not to issue new loans to the beleaguered food company. Ting Hsin purchased its skyscraper stake five years ago for NT$8 billion and is currently the second-largest shareholder, after government-invested ventures. If the sale goes through, Ting Hsin stands to make a nearly NT$20 billion profit, according to local media reports.