Biz Buzz: Reluctant bellwether

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11:04 PM January 6th, 2013

By: the staff, January 6th, 2013 11:04 PM

The SM group isn’t too eager to celebrate—at least not yet—its latest milestone.

Flagship holding firm SM Investments, in the last few trading days, has become the most valuable company in the Philippine stock market. This space has, of course, alluded to SM as a formidable challenger to long-time bellwether Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. And so, alongside the market’s rise to record levels in the last few days, SM has also risen to the top of the blue chips’ roster.

Although the lead over PLDT in terms of market capitalization is still narrow at a range of P4 billion to P6 billion, more and more analysts are starting to proclaim a new bellwether. As of last Friday’s close, SMIC is valued by the market at P570 billion against PLDT’s market capitalization of P564.33 billion.

So, the group of “Tatang” Henry Sy Sr. not only rules the shopping mall, retailing and banking businesses in the Philippines, it also now dominates the local stock market. The long-running joke, which may no longer be funny, is that the Philippine capital may be changed to SM City.

But SM group’s Teresita Sy-Coson (also chairperson of Banco de Oro) will politely decline any congratulatory messages, downplaying this as a temporary thing brought on by volatile markets. She was just as coy in the third quarter of 2008, when the group’s banking arm Banco de Oro Unibank quietly edged out Metrobank as the country’s largest in terms of assets.

If it’s true that the market is always right (because it exists for itself), then Sy-Coson is letting the market speak for itself.—Doris C. Dumlao

HSBC on a roll

Good things seem to be happening to HSBC nowadays. The bank had, of course, recently announced the appointment of its first Filipino country head in the person of Wick Veloso and, in doing so, broke over a century of tradition of having only “gweilos” as top honchos.

Last week, HSBC’s local unit announced another milestone, having been recognized by the Philippine government as the best performing government securities eligible dealer (GSED) for 2012. “Best performing” is industry code, of course, to refer to the institution that records the highest sales volume.

The honor was bestowed last December by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon, along with Christine Sanchez and Gisela Lood of the Bureau of Treasury. At the receiving end were Veloso, the bank’s new treasurer and head of global markets Dondi Baltazar, and senior vice president for interest rates trading Noel Malabag.

The award highlights the strong improvement in HSBC’s business of dealing in government bonds, given that its rank in the previous year stood at only No. 3 among GSED banks.

The award also comes after the bank pulled off last year what many thought was an impossible task: raising P80 billion from the local market (some of it raised internally) to execute San Miguel Corp.’s mammoth preferred shares issue.

Going forward, all eyes are now on Veloso who—as the bank’s first homegrown chief—is naturally expected to validate the collective wisdom of the top brass in Hong Kong and London of breaking long-held tradition.—Daxim L. Lucas

Speaking of tradition…

The Rotary Club of Manila held its first meeting of the year last Thursday and, as has become tradition in recent years, invited Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. to give a luncheon address.

As has become the custom, the central bank chief also received a lot of praise from the Rotary members for his stewardship of the economy despite the problems abroad.

Not surprisingly, Tetangco answered a lot of questions from the floor about the strength of the peso (which was starting to hurt some in the room who had links to the export sector) and the real estate industry. Many asked if an asset price bubble was imminent (no such threat exists, the BSP governor said).

Sitting at the presidential table during the event, held at the Manila Polo Club, was Rotary stalwart Arsenio “Archit” Bartolome III who has since shed the unwieldy baggage from the collapse of Urban Bank over a decade ago (notwithstanding its motto “Beyond banking… lasting relationships”).

Nowadays, Bartolome is the owner of a successful and growing health maintenance organization known as Medicare Plus Inc. It’s motto? “Beyond healthcare … lasting wellness.”—Daxim L. Lucas

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