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Undue emphasis?

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Is the group of tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan—through the former’s broadcasting arm, TV5—out to settle an old score with the Lopez family? Some people in the latter seem to think so.

According to our source, the “dedicated” news coverage of TV5 and its online unit, Interaksyon.com, of the recent Leyte landslide has not gone unnoticed in the Lopez group circles. The landslide, of course, happened last March 1 at the facilities of the Lopez-controlled Energy Development Corp. in Kananga, Leyte, resulting in the death of 14 workers at the site.

Following the tragedy, TV5 put out a total of 14 stories on the issue from March 1 to 8, while Interaskyon.com had eight stories about it—a total of 22 stories on TV and the Internet.

In contrast, our source pointed out that GMA 7 (the traditional rival of the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.) had only one story on the subject, while the government-run PTV 4 had none. ABS-CBN, for its part, had three stories on the tragedy.

The source thinks that TV5 was “out to get the Lopezes,” especially since its TV crew visited the disaster site every day during this period (they were supposedly denied entry).

Is this proof that all is not well between MVP and the Lopezes? Well, look at it this way: according to MVP’s allies, ABS-CBN made short work of Philex Mining Corp. when it had its own accident last year, hammering home to viewers for weeks the supposed environmental catastrophe that the country’s biggest mining firm caused in Benguet. (Remember, too, that MVP and environmentalist Gina Lopez had a very public spat during a televised mining debate last year.)

TV5 was merely returning the favor, according to MVP’s allies.

So what’s the moral of the story? Maybe it’s this: Motives are important when digesting the news.  Daxim L. Lucas

Next in line

With MVP group executive Ricky Vargas as the “anointed” next head of TV5, the logical question is who will step in to replace him as head of Maynilad Water Services Inc.

Our sources say Ramoncito Fernandez, the current head of the group’s highway arm Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), is set to be named president of the water utility that covers half of Metro Manila.

Fernandez was appointed as CEO of MPTC in 2009, or shortly after the MVP group bought the concession contract for the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) from the Lopez family. Under his watch, MPTC submitted its unsolicited proposal for its so-called “connector road.” The company also won the concession deal that would allow it to take over the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), currently under the watch of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). The SCTEx deal, of course, is still waiting for Malacañang’s approval, but that’s another story. MPTC also recently signed an operations and revenue sharing deal for the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway or Cavitex.

Whether Fernandez will take the helm at Maynilad, although highly likely, is not yet set in stone, our source says.

As Biz Buzz reported before, TV5’s current head Ray Espinosa is moving to Hong Kong to sharpen his skills with the MVP group’s parent firm, First Pacific Co. Ltd., which also has investments in Indonesia and has plans of expanding in other Southeast Asian markets.

Espinosa’s move, of course, could very well be part of the “succession planning” that the 66-year-old MVP has been talking about for several years now.  Paolo Montecillo

Stocks on retail

If it’s possible to do everything inside the mall these days, including banking on weekends, why not retailing stocks? After all, the moneyed consumers may just want to pick up equities while shopping for clothes, food or shoes. And they can do so seven days a week during mall hours. Such is local stockbrokerage AB Capital Securities’ rationale for setting up a branch in tycoon Andrew Tan’s upscale Lucky Chinatown Mall in Binondo—take advantage of the foot traffic in the shopping mall to convert more consumers into investors.

The 124-square meter AB Capital branch at the ground floor of Lucky Chinatown offers viewing of live trading activities at the Philippine Stock Exchange and computers with live feeds from Technistock. It operates longer than the usual office hours—8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., matching mall hours. Like the traditional retailer, it also operates seven days a week, not sparing the weekends even when the stock market is closed. “During weekends, there are walk-in inquiries. Clients get to consult me about investments or we do seminars,” said AB Capital head of research Jose “Jovis” Vistan, who is among those plucked out of the company’s head office in Makati to build a client base in Binondo.

The strategy of setting a physical hub inside a shopping mall, Vistan said, was really meant to reach out to high-networth Chinoys as well as to the growing mainland Chinese entrepreneurs (such as the retailers in 168 Mall) who are awash with cash but have nowhere to park them. As such, Vistan’s team in Binondo includes Chinese-speaking staff.

Binondo is seen as only the opening salvo of AB Capital’s retail expansion strategy. After all, its new owner—the Metro Gaisano group (which bought the brokerage from Phinma in 2011), are into retailing and shopping development in Luzon and Visayas. In fact, plans are underway to open a retailing branch in Metro Alabang Town Center.  Doris Dumlao

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