6.4 quake hits Taiwan

TAIPEI – A 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit southern Taiwan Thursday morning, injuring about a dozen people and disrupting operations at a number of the island’s high-tech companies.
Taiwan’s National Fire Agency said 12 people were injured, according to the Associated Press. No deaths or major damage was reported. Officials were still assessing damage midday Thursday.
Meanwhile, several of the island’s major technology companies, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. and Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. said they are still assessing the full impact. Analysts said their output likely will be impacted in coming months. Still, the earthquake struck at a typically slow selling season for technology firms and any disruption in production won’t have a significant impact on the global supply chain, they said.
A spokesman for President Ma Ying-jeou said authorities had been instructed to follow the quake situation closely and take steps to mitigate damage and dislocation, the AP reported. Mr. Ma was widely criticized for his government’s slow response to a devastating typhoon that struck the southern part of Taiwan last year. The presidential office said he planned to visit Tainan, in southern Taiwan, Thursday afternoon.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit about 70 kilometers from the main southern city of Kaohsiung and it was felt as far away as capital Taipei in the north of the island. Its epicenter was in Jiahsian township in Kaohsiung county, an area still recovering from the typhoon.
The quake was felt to a lesser extent in Taipei, where the quake registered a magnitude of 2. It was felt to a similar degree in Hsinchu, where many technology companies are based, and registered a magnitude of 4 in Tainan, according to data from the Central Weather Bureau.
Hsinchu-based TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip maker by revenue, said wafer production at its production lines in Tainan has been disrupted.
“Our (Fab 6 and Fab 14) factories in Tainan were evacuated and workers are now slowly returning,” company spokesman J.H. Tzeng said. There were no casualties among TSMC employees, and the company is gauging whether there was any damage to the company’s equipment from the earthquake, he said.
“Yield rates at the plants would be affected,” said Rick Hsu, an analyst at Nomura International. He estimated that disruptions at TSMC’s Tainan factories will hurt the company’s revenue by 1 per cent in the second quarter.
Advanced Semiconductor, the world’s largest chip testing and packaging company by revenue, said it restarted operations at 19 plants in Kaohsiung after operations were temporarily disrupted by the quake.
The company is still evaluating whether there will be any financial losses, while it is also inspecting its packaging equipment, said spokesman Allen Kan.
Chi Mei, Taiwan’s second-largest flat-panel maker by revenue after AU Optronics Corp., halted operations and evacuated its factories and headquarters in Tainan, Associate Vice President of Finance Eddie Chen said.
Other technology companies, including AU Optronics and TSMC’s rival United Microelectronics Corp. said the earthquake had no immediate impact on their operations.
Still, investors were spooked by the potential impact of the quake, sending the companies’ shares lower Thursday. Shares of TSMC fell as much as 2.7 per cent, but recovered earlier losses to close down 1.3 per cent. Chi Mei fell 0.9 per cent, while Advanced Semiconductor fell 0.8 per cent. Taiwan’s benchmark index fell 0.8 per cent.
 

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