The Rundown: Shareholders’ Meetings Suspended, 1nm Chip Breakthrough, Job Seekers Decline

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

FSC suspends shareholders’ meetings

Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) announced on May 20 that the shareholders’ meetings of 1,931 public companies – including the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) – will be suspended from May 24 to June 30 due to concerns about the recent COVID-19 outbreak. The FSC has also postponed until late August annual shareholders’ meetings that are usually scheduled for the end of June, the first time it has ever made such a change. 

In the wake of the pandemic, many companies have adopted remote work arrangements, which raises the question of why shareholders’ meetings cannot also be held virtually. In a meeting at the Legislative Yuan on May 19, FSC Chairperson Huang Tien-mu identified several concerns regarding remote shareholders’ meetings. Issues include the difficulty of verifying shareholder identities, synchronously counting ballots, and determining how solicitors or proxy agents may attend, as well as technical issues with teleconferencing equipment and limits on the number of attendees permitted in online meetings at the same time.

Companies have raised concerns about whether authorities would further delay the meetings should the pandemic worsen. The FSC has not yet clarified how it would handle such a situation.

As Taiwan’s pandemic alert has risen to Level 3, short of strict lockdowns, companies are finding creative ways to host their shareholders’ meetings in accordance with pandemic safety guidelines. Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. relocated its board meeting to an outdoor basketball court while SinoPac Financial Holdings rented nine separate meeting rooms to hold a conference call.

TSMC, MIT, and NTU report 1nm breakthrough

Researchers from the National Taiwan University (NTU), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently found that the semi-metal bismuth can achieve the ultralow resistance needed to produce chips smaller than 1nm. The team’s research findings were published on May 12 in Nature, a British biweekly science journal.

Current semiconductor technologies enable the manufacturing of 5nm and 3nm chips but have reached a limit on how many transistors can fit on silicon surfaces. Researchers have been looking for ways to overcome the challenges posed by silicon materials to realize 1nm chip development.

The research into this breakthrough solution began with MIT’s discovery that using bismuth as the contact electrode of a two-dimensional material can significantly reduce electrical resistance and increase current. Following this finding, TSMC Corporate Research launched efforts to optimize the manufacturing process for bismuth. Finally, researchers at NTU applied helium-ion beam lithography to shrink the components down to nano size.

NTU Professor Wu Chih-I, one of the research report’s authors, said the university played a major role in the international collaboration. NTU’s multimillion-dollar helium-ion beam lithography system is the only device of its kind in Taiwan.

Active jobseekers decline amid pandemic

The rapid rise in confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Taiwan over the past two weeks are putting strains on the island’s job market. According to a survey conducted by 104 Job Bank, a prominent recruitment service provider in Taiwan, job seekers became more conservative after public health authorities raised Taiwan’s pandemic alert level in mid-May.

104 notes that compared to the period before the pandemic situation began intensifying, job vacancies posted online decreased by only 1% and the number of hiring companies by 4%. Overall, the job market remains steady, the company says. On the other hand, job applications declined 5.6% within a week following the government’s announcement that it would raise the COVID-19 alert level.

Yang Tsung-pin, a spokesperson for yes123, another Taiwanese job-recruiting website, said jobseekers applying before graduation usually receive offers for jobs with better pay. “For first-time jobseekers who apply before they graduate, 70% of the companies are willing to offer higher salaries – 8.5% higher than those offered to late applicants,” said Yang.

Yang also highlights that many companies, seeing the trend toward digital transformation, are actively cultivating succession teams comprising young people who bring with them new marketing concepts.  

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