Biz Buzz: From Fr. Doom to Dr. Boom
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Forget Davos. One of the most sought-after speakers in the financial world has landed on local shores (a week after gracing the World Economic Forum in the famous Swiss ski resort) to give his prognosis on the local and global economies.
Nouriel Roubini will be one of the most awaited speakers at Wednesday’s Philippine Investment Summit 2013, which is sponsored by First Metro Investment Corp., the investment banking unit of the Metrobank Group. Nicknamed “Dr. Doom” (the latest in a long line of doomsayers over the years), he is famous for having predicted the 2008 collapse of the US housing market, which eventually led to a global recession.
But no, Roubini is not here to predict gloom and doom for the Philippines. On the contrary, the New York University economics rock star said in a Bloomberg interview earlier this week that he preferred the Philippines and Indonesia as investment destinations compared to the over-hyped powerhouses such as China and India.
People expecting to meet a stiff academic on Wednesday are in for a surprise. Dubbed by some as the “playboy economist,” Roubini landed Tuesday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (shudder) dressed in his trademark denim pants, white cotton shirt and a casual coat. Roubini supposedly told the local sponsors of his trip that he was excited to visit for the first time a country that he considered a “success story.”
Expect Dr. Doom to say good things about the long-term growth prospects of the Philippines and predict that the country will receive the coveted investment grade this year.
FMIC chief Jojo Dispo, who met Roubini at the airport, said the economist was amazed that it only took 20 minutes to get from the airport to his quarters in the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.
“He asked me if I did something special with the traffic because he was warned that traffic here was bad, so I pointed out to him, we used the Skyway,” Dispo said. “He was impressed.”—Daxim L. Lucas
Dirty tricks vs Globe?
It’s bad enough that it has been the subject of complaints in recent months (now waning, thankfully) about poor mobile phone service due to its network upgrade, but Globe Telecom seems to be the favorite target of scammers and pranksters, too.
On Tuesday, the Ayala-controlled telco reiterated its warning to the public against unscrupulous people who try to scam unsuspecting victims into transferring load credits to them via Globe’s share-a-load service. The modus operandi involves the victim receiving a text message congratulating him on receiving a P150 discount, which he could avail himself of by texting “150” to a prepaid number prefixed by the number “2”. Unknown to many, texting in this format actually transfers load credits to the recipient.
Last week, Globe was also made aware of a Twitter account that was passing itself off as an official Globe account (management suspects someone’s dirty tricks department at work, we hear). On the upside, the telco ended 2012 with a record number of postpaid subscribers (complaints about the network, notwithstanding), widening its lead over its rival.
That explains the dirty tricks, management thinks.—Daxim L. Lucas
Mactan change of heart
Word on the street is that the government is reviewing its earlier policy of barring companies with stakes in airlines from bidding for the redevelopment of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport terminal.
Biz Buzz heard that the Department of Transportation and Communications might soften its position on the basis of wanting to get better bids from the conglomerates that are interested in the project. After all, competition among bidders is good and will surely result in a lower project cost.
But here’s the thing: we heard that the final push did not come from the two entities that had protested the earlier prohibition (San Miguel, which owns a stake in Philippine Airlines, and JG Summit, which owes Cebu Pacific).
Instead, the party that pushed really hard for the policy to be amended was a local bidder who had planned to bring in a foreign airport operator as its partner.
It turned out that that foreign airport operator shares the same stakeholder as the largest airline in that country. So there.—Daxim L. Lucas
Getting to work
Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) is set to finally break ground next Thursday for its so-called connector road to link the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) with the Metro Skyway.
The long-awaited project is expected to benefit motorists looking to avoid Metro Manila’s notorious traffic congestion. But by breaking ground for the project, is the MVP group counting its chickens before any of its eggs hatch?
See, the group’s proposed connector is made up of three components: NLEx segments 9 and 10 and the main elevated highway that will connect with the Skyway. The first two components are already part of MNTC’s original concession contract for the NLEx. The only thing that has stood in the way of construction is right-of-way issues.
However, there is still no assurance that MNTC will win the rights from the government to win the Skyway link section, which remains subject to a Swiss challenge.
While the connector component of the NLEx-Skyway link was originally MNTC’s idea, the company offered to build it under an unsolicited proposal with the Department of Public Works and Highways. Under local procurement laws, unsolicited proposals still need to undergo Swiss challenges, where other interested parties are given the chance to submit better offers. The original proponent, in this case MNTC, has the right to match the best of those offers to win the contract.
MNTC losing the Swiss challenge to a rival conglomerate with equally deep pockets is not far-fetched. The Ayala group already proved seriousness in government road projects by winning the contract Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) toll road in 2011. Of course, nothing is stopping San Miguel Corp., which has its own Skyway-NLEx toll road project, from going against MNTC.—Paolo Montecillo
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