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Biz Buzz: Papaya sting


01:12 AM January 16th, 2013

By: the staff, January 16th, 2013 01:12 AM

Not a few people were surprised when word appeared on social media that the Bureau of Internal Revenue has offered a P150-million reward for anyone who could provide “prima facie evidence” that supports what appears to be the agency’s ongoing probe of Cosmetique Asia Silka Papaya (yes, the firm that makes that whitening soap product).

Such news item was even carried by TV5’s news website based on a press statement that was e-mailed to some reporters, ostensibly by a BIR official, Tuesday morning.

In the statement, the BIR supposedly offered the reward—equivalent to 10 percent of the alleged P1.5 billion in taxes that the firm owes the government—to anyone who could give the agency positive leads to help its investigation.

Well and good, right?

Well, as it turned out, the BIR did not release any such statement, with no less than Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares denying that such a press release was sent out.

A cursory glance at the e-mailed press statement showed that it was indeed of a dubious source. It was purportedly issued by a certain “Tess Idio,” who is the officer in charge of the BIR’s “incentives division.” But the e-mail address it emanated from was a Gmail account instead of the official format.

More importantly, the link to the reference material cited in the e-mail leads to an anonymously written blog, which has been carrying, for some time now, several anti-Silka Papaya articles. (Someone clearly has an issue against the firm’s chief operating officer, calling him a “tax evader” and uploading a picture of him on a pricey Ducati from his Facebook account.)

Henares herself had to issue a statement Tuesday afternoon to clarify that the BIR issued no such press release and that any probe it conducts is done in secrecy.

Tsk tsk. So much for that P150-million reward.—Daxim L. Lucas

Reviving Zeus

This stock named after the big boss of Greek gods is back on stock pundits’ radar screen in the last two days as many blue chips have hit what many consider to be expensive levels. Zeus Holdings Inc. (ZHI), affiliated with mining tycoon Felipe Yap, soared by 25 percent Tuesday and landed among the list of top traded stocks.

The speculation is that within the next few days, Yap is set to meet with Australian mining group NewCrest to talk about prospective investment in dormant ZHI. It is believed that Yap has long wanted to unlock values from ZHI and was previously in talks with Gold Fields as well. ZHI is an operator of mining claims in the Carrascal, Cantillan and Madrid in Surigao del Sur, which, however, has yet to obtain a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA). More than just selling shares in a shell company, some say that Yap is keen on infusing into ZHI privately held mining claims outside of his Lepanto, including some that are contiguous to the high-grade Far Southeast gold mining project in Mankayan, Benguet.

Last year, the mining/oil counter was battered by an ugly operating environment caused by an “investor-unfriendly” mining framework, lower commodity prices and the Padcal mining accident. Is it possible that the worst news had been priced in? The midterm elections are seen as a key game changer for the sector this year as far as adopting revenue-sharing policy is concerned.

As for Yap’s talks with NewCrest, dealers caution that these would at best be preliminary, exploratory—and deniable.—Doris C. Dumlao

‘Epic’ fail

A controversial actress clearly thinks she could throw her weight around anywhere she goes—including kicking out somebody from a resto-bar just because she does not like the way he looks—perhaps because she and her family are major players in show biz.

This controversial actress, who is notorious for getting involved in all sorts of scandals, recently got an “epic embarrassment” at a high-end bar in Boracay.

The controversial actress had her eyes on a handful of beautiful men at an adjacent table and had schemed to insert herself into this gorgeous group. But first she wanted to get rid of one guy whose moreno features she did not fancy as this probably did not fit in with her all-mestizo fetish. She asked the joint’s bouncer to have the moreno guy kicked out.

The bouncer obliged, but he was bowled over when he learned that the moreno guy (who comes from a “buena familia”) turned out to be the one paying for the group’s tab. It was his party and the pretty guys were his diving buddies.

The businessman is also independently wealthy as he owns a string of popular restaurants in Metro Manila (President Aquino is a regular customer) and he is a close friend of the bar’s owners.

The bouncer was apologetic and explained that it was the controversial actress who wanted him ejected from the bar. It was an awkward situation, but the controversial actress played innocent when the moreno guy and his friends gave her the dagger looks.—Gil Cabacungan

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