$425m lifeline for 'risky' Tradelink

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 June, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 June, 1996, 12:00am

The troubled Tradelink computer system received a $425 million lifeline yesterday after the Government persuaded legislators money was not being thrown away.

Democratic Party economic spokesman Dr Huang Chen-ya said it was a 'high-risk, venture capital' investment, but the risks were partly contained by late changes to the financing package.

The system, which is already $162 million in the red, would have been unable to operate sometime this month because it had reached the limit of its overdraft.

'It sounds a bit glib, but it's business as usual,' said Tradelink acting general manager Griff Griffith. 'Now we'll be able to pay the electricity bill.' Secretary for Trade and Industry Denise Yue Chung-yee refused to answer questions on who was to blame for the delays in the project - two years behind schedule.

'I don't think it's useful for anyone to look back. The important thing is for all parties concerned to look forward and work as a team,' she said.

Legislators baulked at providing the $425 million as a loan. Instead, the Treasury is to give the money as a convertible bond.

This means that the Government's shareholding of 48 per cent will be increased if Tradelink fails to pay back the loan, reducing the effective shareholding of Hongkong Bank, Swire Group and other private sector partners to one-third of the current levels.

The refusal of those shareholders to give extra funds precipitated the consortium's crisis.

A letter from Ian Tomlin, a former chairman of the body that proposed the project, was received by the committee on Thursday. It said legislators should let the project die because it was trying to go too fast.

But Ms Yue disputed this, saying: 'Actually, we have been trying a very gradual or incremental approach.'