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China Southern first Chinese company to apply to invest in Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines submitted on Friday an application with Taiwan's government to open a branch here, becoming the first Chinese company to apply to invest in the country, Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) officials said Friday.

China Southern was taking advantage of the MOEA's announcement Tuesday that Chinese investment in over 100 product and service categories would be allowed, and that regulations covering applications by Chinese businesses seeking to open subsidiaries or branches in Taiwan were also ready.

The MOEA's Investment Commission accepted the carrier's application and accompanying documents but cautioned that the timing of its application did not have any bearing on when it might be approved.

"The company that submits the first application will not necessarily turn out to be the first one to receive an approval, " said Fan Liang-tung, executive secretary of the MOEA's Investment Commission.

"As the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) is the government agency in charge of the aviation industry, the question of when China Southern Airlines could be granted the green light is beyond the MOEA's authority," Fan explained.

He noted, however, that his commission will screen the case in one month.

According to an MOEA online information system, four Chinese enterprises, all aviation companies, had applied by the end of the day Friday to open branches to expand their business and cash in on potentially lucrative routes flying directly between Taiwan and China.

Air China, China Eastern Air and Hainan Airlines joined China Southern in submitting investment applications Friday.

Zeng Qingning, spokeswoman for China Southern's Taiwan office, confirmed that the company had sent the necessary documents to Taiwan's MOEA, the MOEA's Investment Commission and the MOTC's Civil Aeronautics Administration in seeking approval for the branch.

Zeng said it is unclear when the branch can be opened but added that related preparations are already being made.

"We can begin selling tickets once our office is approved to become a branch," she noted.

China Southern at present employs 25 people in Taiwan, seven of whom are Taiwanese, she said.

The carrier operates four weekly flights between Shanghai and Taipei's Songshan Airport, four weekly flights between Guangzhou and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and four weekly flights between Shenzhen and the Taoyuan airport, Taiwan's main international gateway.

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