Taiwan Business in Brief – September 2021

Taiwan Mobile Goes South, Chunghwa Underseas

Local telecommunications carrier Taiwan Mobile announced on August 9 that it would invest NT$20 million (US$717,000) in the Series E round of funding for Tiki Corp., Vietnam’s largest e-commerce retailer. The strategic investment will be Taiwan Mobile’s first in Vietnam, according to the company’s president, Jamie Lin.

The move also reflects the company’s drive to expand into the rapidly growing markets of Greater Southeast Asia (GSEA), a regional grouping that includes Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, plus Taiwan. GSEA is seen by Taiwan Mobile as fresh ground on which to develop its 5G business, and the company seeks to establish new partnerships in each market to develop a range of different business areas, including logistics, broadband, and 5G-related applications.

State-owned Chunghwa Telecom, meanwhile, has joined a multilateral project to lay an underseas cable that will connect several countries in Asia. The Apricot, a 12,000-foot cable system, will link Taiwan with Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Guam, and is set to launch in 2024.

As with Taiwan Mobile’s Vietnam investment, Chunghwa’s participation in the cable plan is aimed at expanding its regional and international presence. In addition, the company said that it seeks to improve Taiwan’s global internet security as it enters the 5G era.

Airlines Make Gains Amid Pandemic

Following the initial outbreak of COVID-19 early last year, commercial airlines struggled to fill the void left by the precipitous subsequent drop in international travel. The most common method companies adopted was increasing the frequency of cargo flights. China Airlines (CAL), one of Taiwan’s two main carriers, transported 1.55 million metric tons of cargo last year – an increase of 12.8% from 2019 – making it one of the world’s top-five airlines in terms of cargo volume.

A significant contributor to CAL’s cargo business is cold chain logistics, which is necessary for the transshipment of certain types COVID-19 vaccines. CAL stated that the number of temperature-controlled containers that it transported in the first half of the year rose by 220% from the same period in 2019, and cited recent shipments of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan from Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Thailand, and the U.S.

Both CAL and Taiwan’s other major carrier, EVA Airways, announced in mid-August that they would begin a trial run of an international digital health verification app, the IATA Travel Pass developed by the International Air Transport Association. The app notifies passengers on what kinds of health information they will need to board their flight, and stores digital proof of COVID-19 tests and vaccines, among other data, that can be presented to airline staff at check-in.

Meanwhile, luxury carrier Starlux Airlines Co. is gradually expanding its commercial operations. Starlux announced in August that it would begin flights to Singapore the following month, citing the Southeast Asian city-state’s decision to ease quarantine restrictions on travelers arriving from Taiwan, on the condition that they provide a negative COVID-19 test result. Starlux, which currently operates flights to Macau, Penang, Bangkok, Tokyo, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, and Manila, said that the Singapore route is part of its effort to broaden its presence in Southeast Asia.

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