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Founder of world's largest cycle maker Giant to retire

King Liu to make way for the next generation amid challenges in China

Young Liu, left, will be Giant's new CEO as of Jan. 1, 2017, with Bonnie Tu, right, taking over as chairman (Photo by Cheng Ting-Fang)

TAIPEI -- King Liu, the 82-year-old founder and chairman of Taiwan's Giant Manufacturing, the world's largest bicycle maker, has announced his retirement together with that of 67-year-old Tony Lo, the company's longtime chief executive.

In a press conference following the board of directors' meeting on Friday, the company said Bonnie Tu, the company's veteran chief financial officer and executive vice president will take over as the company's chairman, and Young Liu, currently chief operating officer, will be the new chief executive, effective on Jan. 1.

Tu is King Liu's niece, and Liu is his only son.

"Our company's new leadership will shift from the strong and centralized management over the past four decades to a more professional teamwork style," said Tu at a press conference in Taipei.

Tu said that the future management of Giant would act like a cycling team in the Tour de France competition, in which every member plays an important role.

"In a world that is full of uncertainties, it is better that we do some new things; otherwise, it's likely that we will lag behind," said Tu.

Young Liu said that to initiate the transformation the company selected 14 key executives in October to be in charge of roles such as marketing, sales, legal affairs, human resources and manufacturing, with the reforms expected to facilitate decision-making processes and enable the company to quickly adjust to changes.

Liu added that in the future he would love to turn Giant from the world's No.1 bicycle maker into a more service-oriented company with both brick-and-mortar stores and online e-commerce platforms.

Tu, 67, has long served as the company's chief financial officer and successfully took the company public in 1994. In 2008, she launched Liv, a female bicycle brand with more colorful and designed models, and which has become one of Giant's key growth drivers.

Young Liu, 57, joined the company as a quality assurance specialist back in 1990 and learned every detail about bicycle manufacturing. In 1992, when he was 34, he helped bring Giant to China, where the company has enjoyed explosive growth.

For a long time, Giant has been the dominant bicycle brand in China, but now it is facing growing challenges in this key market.

After many years of posting strong sales growth, in 2016 the company could see its first year-on-year revenue slide since 2009, due to the continuous slump in the Chinese economy.

For the first three quarters of this year, the company's net profit fell nearly 20% to 2.4 billion New Taiwan dollars ($75 million) while its revenue also declined 6.5% to NT$44.23 billion.

Despite Giant's still strong lead in the market, smaller Chinese bicycle makers such as Shanghai Phoenix Enterprise and Zhonglu have started to put pressure on the Taiwanese company, as they have started to produce some mid-range bicycles on top of their low-end core offering, according to Johnson Wang, an analyst Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.

Since Giant issued an invitation on Dec. 12 for a press conference regarding its new leadership, its shares dropped 4.5% over the week to close at NT$188.5 on Friday.

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