The Rundown: Microsoft Hiring, Financial Company Profits, and Boost in Hotel F&B

A bi-weekly snapshot of Taiwan business news stories brought to you by CommonWealth and AmCham Taiwan’s TOPICS

Microsoft begins hiring to boost Taiwan R&D

Microsoft announced on February 5 that it would work to make Taiwan a global technology research and development hub. The company said it is confident in the island’s strong integration of hardware and software systems and its diverse talent pool. To that end, it will hire around 100 Taiwan-based hardware and software researchers, helping Taiwanese businesses apply forward-looking know-how to their operations.

Michael Chang, director of Microsoft’s R&D center, said the company has been gradually expanding its R&D efforts in Taiwan, from software and AI development to hardware and technical research. Microsoft aims to establish an R&D ecosystem for manufacturing certification, software design, platform and application development, and product innovation. Chang hopes these efforts will boost Taiwan’s talent retention by offering domestic employment opportunities in high tech.

The hiring drive will focus on four prominent fields: Azure Maps, Data Annotation, Devices Software & Quality Organization (DSQO), and Azure Hardware Systems & Infrastructure (AHSI).

In addition to hardware and software developers and linguists, Microsoft will also recruit professionals for its Computer Vision and Power BI teams, as well as additional internship positions.

Taiwan’s financial giants make record profits

Taiwan’s 15 financial titans released stellar January earnings reports before the Lunar New Year this month. Fubon Financial Holdings and Cathay Financial Holdings doubled their profits year-on-year to more than NT$20 billion each.

Cathay reported a record net profit of NT$21.7 billion in January while its subsidiary Cathay Life Insurance also posted a net profit of NT$18.6 billion, the highest monthly earning record for an insurance company.

However, such record profits underly great risks. Although the 15 financial companies combined profits totaled NT$380 billion in 2020, far surpassing the NT$350 billion benchmark from a year earlier, only six of them experienced growth. Among these six, only one – Taishin – is a financial holding company, while the rest are insurance and securities companies.  

Overall, Taiwan’s banking industry was in decline last year. Overseas branches of Taiwanese banks posted a total net profit of only NT$20 billion as of last November due to budget cuts by foreign businesses and global industries amid the pandemic. Prospects for the banking industry remain uncertain as there is still no end to the pandemic in sight.

Hotel F&B sees boost amid ongoing pandemic

Taipei hotels’ food and beverage sales boomed throughout the Lunar New Year. Hotpot restaurants and banquet halls saw 10-30% and 10-50% revenue increases, respectively, on New Year’s Eve, while hotels experienced overall 10% growth compared to last year.

Regent Taipei said its restaurant revenues jumped 38% to NT$10.8 million on Lunar New Year’s Eve while its banquet facilities’ revenues grew 15% to NT$2.98 million during the first five days of the new year.

Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel reported 30% and 50% revenue growth for its restaurants and banquets, respectively. Courtyard Marriott Taipei enjoyed a 20% growth in revenues for its New Year’s Eve banquets and 45% growth at its restaurants. In addition, profits from its buffets jumped 45-50% to NT$5.3 million.

Fleur de Chine also reported good performance throughout the holidays. It expects further revenue growth in February as bookings fill up for the upcoming 228 Peace Memorial holiday. 

Hotels are optimistic that domestic demand will remain steady despite a lack of international travelers as a result of the pandemic.

This edition was translated from the original Chinese by Jason Wu.

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