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Biz Buzz: Sticky middle ground

/ 03:26 AM January 14, 2013

On the reported “compromise” that’s shaping up between two proponents of separate connector roads linking the North and South Luzon expressways, the government seems to be getting impatient waiting for rivals San Miguel/Citra and Metro Pacific groups to resolve their differences on the P7-billion, five-kilometer common alignment on their own. After all, the government wants the project to get going in preparation for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit to be hosted by the Philippines in 2015.

What compromise is likely? As part of the middle ground, both parties have so far agreed to adopt an “open system” for toll plazas instead of the more complicated inter-operability similar to the flat rate system now used in NLEx. This means that San Miguel and Metro Pacific will both put up their own toll plazas (and take forever in reconciling and linking their systems). The agreement is to let the motorist pay a flat rate for the common segment in whichever toll plaza he chooses to exit plus the balance for the distance of travel.

But what remains a sticky issue is how soon Metro Pacific will contribute to the common segment. Our sources say that Metro Pacific wants to contribute to the cost upfront while San Miguel/Citra wants Metro Pacific’s participation back-ended specially since the former’s connector road is still expected to undergo a Swiss challenge and is therefore expected to start at a later date than San Miguel/Citra’s project (whose concession naturally ends at Buendia and therefore can begin expeditiously from that end moving to the north).


The San Miguel group’s proposal is for it to undertake the construction of the common segment and let Metro Pacific pay for its 50-percent share once the latter’s alignment is completed, say in three years. As a sweetener, our sources say San Miguel has offered a settling of the differential if the vehicular traffic assumptions are not met by the time the tollroads are operational. For instance, if Metro Pacific gets only 30 percent of traffic flow, then 20 percent of the cost of the common segment will be given to them and vice versa.

The ball is now in Malacañang’s court on how to find the best middle ground.—Doris C. Dumlao

Islamic bonds

The Securities and Exchange Commission is working with the Asian Development Bank to come up with a new framework for the registration of Islamic bonds, or those that conform with the Sharia law (which, as we all know, prohibits the charging of interest). SEC officials see the introduction of Islamic bonds to the local market as timely especially with the Bangsamoro peace accord, which is seen boosting more interest to do business in Mindanao.—Doris C. Dumlao


They looked like they took it in stride, but we hear that the brass at PLDT were not too happy about losing the title of “largest Philippine company” to SM Investments Corp.

With that came the unofficial title of stock market “bellwether,” which refers to a listed company that best represents the Philippine economy. For a few days, that went to SMIC after its shares surged along with local prices, as PLDT’s stayed put (due in part to lingering questions about foreign ownership limits being deliberated by regulators).

By Tuesday of last week, PLDT group officials rejoiced when the telco overtook SMIC’s market capitalization by a hair’s breadth. But their joy was short-lived as the Henry Sy-owned firm surged ahead the very next day.


Thankfully for PLDT, the Securities and Exchange Commission hinted last Friday that it would opt for a more liberal interpretation of the constitutional limit on foreign ownership of shares. This caused an almost 2-percent increase in PLDT’s share price to P2,688, raising its market cap to P580.76 billion… slightly higher than SMIC’s P573.14 billion.

So PLDT is back on top. For now.—Daxim L. Lucas

Love your own

In a recent restaurant industry “secret” awards, not a few chefs and industry insiders were left with their mouths agape upon the announcement of the winner of one particular category. For the second time since the awards were established, a tired, old restaurant in Greenbelt became the recipient of the “best Japanese restaurant” award.

What has kept tongues wagging among our sources is that this restaurant is owned by the family of the main proponent of the restaurant industry awards. A case of incest, perhaps? Or a lack of delicadeza (a trait that should actually be familiar to the restaurant owner in question being of the Spanish persuasion). It’s a bit like Robert Redford receiving an award for his own film entry in the Sundance Film Festival, except that the brilliant actor and director wouldn’t even dare participate in that competition that he established.

Adding to the incredulity of the award category, fans of Japanese cuisine note that in terms of the freshness in sashimi alone, the category winner is definitely no match for its well-known neighbor along Pasay Road, which continues to attract a large number of patrons despite its pricier menu. (We wonder though why this particular restaurant wasn’t included among the nominees this year.) Anyway, it just shows that diners with sophisticated palates know real food quality when they taste it. Awards can’t swing good taste.

As for the rest of the awards, there must be something to be said about the tight-knit group that runs and participates in the awards. Gourmands note that a number of the category winners were definite head scratchers.–Daxim L. Lucas

McDreamy loves Tully’s

So actor Patrick Dempsey—nicknamed “McDreamy” in the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy”—trumped the likes of Starbucks Corp. for the Seattle franchise Tully’s Coffee at a bankruptcy auction. Recently, he tweeted “We got it! Thank you Seattle!” and later commented in media reports about wanting to save the company and the jobs it has created.

Of course, there’s nothing preventing customers from thinking “McDreamy loves Tully’s.” Yet local officials say there is no direct impact since the Tully’s Coffee franchise in the Philippines operates under a separate company and has its own roll-out plan.

The Big Chill Inc. (TBC), a subsidiary of farm-to-plate agribusiness firm AgriNurture Inc., opened an outlet in Araneta Center last December and said it would be opening outlets in Magnolia, Binondo and Subic soon. The flagship store is in Bonifacio Global City.

“Generally, expansion plans of Big Chill in the Philippines will not be affected,” TBC president and CEO Dan Francisco said in a text message. “Though we won’t mind working with Patrick Dempsey one day.”—Riza T. Olchondra

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TAGS: awards and prizes, Business, connector roads, Infrastructure, Islamic bonds, Markets and Exchanges, Metro Pacific, Patrick Dempsey, Philippines, PLDT, restaurants, roads, San Miguel/Citra, SM Investments Corp., Tully’s Coffee
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