Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) The Breeze group, one of the largest shopping mall operators in Taiwan, confirmed Wednesday that it is planning to reduce its workforce, but declined to say whether the local media reports of a 30 percent cut were accurate.
Breeze, which has 10 shopping malls in Taipei, said the workforce reduction plan is a routine internal adjustment, and it will continue to expand and hire professionals to help its growth.
The company opened its 10th Taipei mall in January 2018 -- the Breeze Nan Shan in Taipei's Xinyi District - and is planning another one in the city's Nangang District but has not yet set a date for that opening, it said.
Its layoff plans were first reported in the local media, which said Wednesday that Breeze would reduce its workforce by about 30 percent, which would mean cutting 200-300 employees, because the scare over novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected private consumption and hurt Taiwan's retail industry.
According to the reports, Breeze Chairman Henry Liao (廖鎮漢) said in January that employees would receive up to seven months' pay in annual bonuses for 2019, and he praised their efforts to help the company record strong sales growth for the year, but less than a month later he came up with a redundancy plan.
Liao said the Breeze group recorded sales of NT$30.5 billion (US$1.02 billion) in 2019, a 40 percent annual increase, and he forecast that its revenue would grow to NT$31 billion in 2020, according to local media.
However, restaurants, which are the major source of income at the Breeze malls, have seen a drop in customers due to the virus scare, the reports said.
In addition, some brands at the Breeze Nan Shan have withdrawn due to stiff competition and high rent in the Xinyi District, the reports said.
Meanwhile, Liu Chia-hung (劉家鴻), chief secretary at the Taipei City Department of Labor, said his agency had not received any notice from Breeze about layoffs or any complaints from the group's employees.
Breeze opened its first shopping mall in Taipei 19 years ago on Fuxing South Road and has since expanded to 10.
Since the COVID-19 virus was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, more than 45,000 cases and over 1,100 deaths have been confirmed worldwide, with China reporting the majority. Taiwan has confirmed 18 cases of the disease.