Asahi Glass mulls Yunlin factory site

Asahi Glass Co of Japan, the world's second-largest thin-film transistor liquid-crystal display (TFT-LCD) glass-substrate maker, may plan to expand investment in Taiwan to meet rising flat-panel demand, Science Park Administration officials said yesterday.

"Asahi is considering establishing plants by renting the entire Yunlin base of the Central Taiwan Science Park, a total of 97 hectares," said Wang Hong-yan, a section chief at the park's provisional office.

"The company may not make a decision until July or August, after the board's election," Wang said. "But if the company approves the new investment, it may invest up to NT$500 billion in the park's Yunlin base."

Asahi had sales of about ?1.29 trillion last year, an increase of around 2.5 percent from a year ago. Its income last year grew about 27.6 percent to ?56.8 billion.

The Japanese company began its Taiwanese operations in 2000 by setting up the wholly-owned Asahi Glass Fine Techno Taiwan Co in Yunlin Industrial Park, with a total investment of US$260 million.

Asahi Glass has an annual production capacity of 14,000,000m2 of TFT-LCD glass substrates. The company hopes to finalize its construction by 2005 and boost its global market share to around 45 percent, behind Corning Inc of the US with 50 percent.

The Central Taiwan Science Park totals 430 hectares with 333 hectares in Taichung and the rest in Yunlin. The park was inaugurated in October 2002, and has attracted 38 enterprises, mostly optical-electronics and precision machinery industries.

Total investment attracted amounts to NT$430 billion, including AU Optronics Corp's NT$140 billion investment in sixth- and seventh-generation TFT-LCD factories, Winbond Electronics Corp's NT$100 billion and ProMOS Technologies Inc's NT$100 billion investments on 12-inch wafer plants.

The Science Park Administration expects the park to create an output value of NT$100 billion next year and NT$120 billion after three years.

"Central Taiwan's park, which has boosted the value of Taichung's real estate by 10 to 30 percent, would offer 50,000 jobs, further helping central Taiwan's economic development," said Yang Wen-ke, deputy director-general of the park's provisional office.

Hsinchu Science Park, the nation's high-tech cradle, last year also enjoyed large-scale growth in revenue, thanks to the recovery of the global semiconductor industry.

"The Hsinchu park's 2003 revenue reached NT$857.8 billion, a leap of 22 percent compared to 2002 [revenue]," said Randy Yeh, deputy director-general of the Science Park Administration.

The industries that saw a big increase in revenue include optical-electronics with a 57 percent rise, biotechnology with a 30 percent gain and IC makers with 24 percent growth.

The Hsinchu park also attracted 54 new companies with a total investment of NT$31.9 billion last year, an increase of 15 percent over the previous year.

The boom that began in the third quarter of last year has helped the Hsinchu park's exports to grow by 40 percent to NT$390.8 billion while its imports dropped 11 percent, to NT$221.8 billion, because of companies' reluctance to add equipment after slow business in the previous year.

The Science Park Administration is upbeat about the Hsinchu park's outlook this year.

"In view of the continuing prosperity of the global semiconductor industry, the domestic IC industry could enjoy a growth rate of 31 percent," Yeh said. "The park's revenue is expected to rise by 28 percent to NT$1.1 trillion this year."

600450 Asahi Glass mulls Yunlin factory site

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