Taiwan considers letting China invest in LCD panels

In search of capital for equipment upgrades, Taiwanese LCD panel makers are looking to China for funding

Taiwanese officials are discussing ways to let investors from mainland China buy stakes in the island's LCD panel makers, an economics ministry representative said on Monday. Taiwan is weighing the political risk of Chinese investment against local businesses' need for capital to fund equipment upgrades.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs Investment Review Board is studying how much of an investment Chinese companies should be allowed to make, the representative said. He declined to specify options on the table, but local media say Chinese investors' holdings in Taiwanese companies would be capped at 20 percent.

Taiwanese LCD panel makers want additional capital to fund their frequent and expensive equipment upgrades, and probably pressured the government to consider China, analysts say.

Taiwan's LCD panel industry was worth NT$1.32 trillion (US$45 billion) in 2009, with AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux among the best-known manufacturers. They sell panels to the makers of monitors, handheld devices andstate-of-the-art televisions.

"Taiwan panel makers are lacking money," said Liang Kuo-yan , president of Polaris Research Institute in Taipei. "They're always upgrading equipment from one generation to the next. I think they need the investment from mainland China."

China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the 1940s, but Beijing claims the island as part of its territory.

Although two-way trade ties have picked up through landmark talks since 2008, Taiwanese officials remain nervous about relying on China's rich and often state-owned firms for financial support.

Taiwanese firms that allow Chinese investment may need to open board seats to their Chinese supporters, giving them access to a full range of information -- including secrets -- about the company.

Tags regulationComponentsChimei InnoLuxgovernmentAU Optronicsdisplays

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Ralph Jennings

IDG News Service

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