“Patriotic investor” could save scandal-ridden Taiwan minesweeper project

Taiwanese businessman interested in buying out troubled Ching Fu Shipbuilding

Patriotic investor likely to save Ching Fu Shipbuilding, reports say. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A “patriotic investor” with NT$10 billion (US$332.8 million) might show up to save the minesweeper project threatened by scandals at troubled Ching Fu Shipbuilding Co. (慶富造船), according to the company’s chairman.

The Kaohsiung-based shipbuilder defaulted on a NT$20.5 billion (US$679 million) syndicated loan from state banks for a NT$35.8 billion (US$1.18 billion) contract to build six minesweepers for the Navy. The affair has raised questions about why such a small company was awarded such a major contract, and about whether the administration of then-President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) exerted any undue pressure to have the military and the banks approve the project.

Amid worries that the company might be taken over by foreign interests, Ching Fu Chairman Chen Ching-nan (陳慶男) reportedly said Wednesday that a Taiwanese “patriotic investor” had shown interest to buy two thirds of the shares in his company.

Because the scandal broke into the open, the businessman had proposed a joint deal with Ching Fu to build the minesweepers, and had maintained contact ever since, Chen said.

Ching Fu and the mystery investor were currently negotiating on how to proceed with the deal, according to the reports.

The government has a policy of making as many weapons systems as possible domestically, so the investor was interested in helping that policy, though the minesweepers also needed foreign technology. He also compared the current minesweeper project with the nation’s high-speed rail system, which only went ahead after the government took the necessary measures to put construction on the right track, reports said.