June 28, 2017 / 7:42 AM / 3 months ago

Taiwan's ASE determined on merger with SPIL amid China anti-trust review

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan, June 28 (Reuters) - Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc (ASE) said on Wednesday it was determined to complete its merger with a local rival as part of global chip industry consolidation and that it was in close communication with Chinese authorities who have extended their year-long anti-trust review of the deal.

“We continue to have close communication with the Chinese government,” ASE chief operating officer Tien Wu told reporters on the sidelines of a shareholders’ meeting. “We hope to complete this merger case as soon as possible.”

Wu said anti-trust regulators in jurisdictions, including Taiwan, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and South Korea, have already given the nod for the merger, first announced in mid-2016, between Taiwan’s two largest chip test and packaging companies.

The deal would put ASE and Siliconware Precision Industries Co (SPIL) under one holding company that would then operate the two businesses, which ratings agency Fitch said in May would give the combined entity a stronger market position though a worse credit profile.

Earlier this month, ASE said it had re-filed its merger application with China’s commerce ministry, which needed more time to review the deal, after first receiving the plans in August 2016.

The deal is set to expire at the end of this year if it is not consummated, but Wu said it was “very likely” that both companies would agree to an extension, while also dismissing possible non-economic factors affecting its review in China.

“From a business (view), the economic principles and competition consideration of this merger case are very clear,” he said.

The deal capped months of effort by ASE to wrestle control of SPIL first by buying SPIL shares in the open market and then beating back rival suitors Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co and China’s state-backed Tsinghua Unigroup.

The hold-up in ASE-SPIL’s anti-trust review in China comes as relations have cooled between Taiwan and China since the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took power on the island last year. China deems Taiwan as its own, to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

Taiwan has also protected its prized chip industry from becoming too reliant and open to China. Tsinghua Unigroup saw its more than $2 billion in deal-making that it had hoped to seal on the island unravel at the start of this year when the last of three Taiwan companies it wanted to partially acquire scrapped the plans, citing regulatory hurdles in Taiwan. (Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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