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Biz Buzz

/ 08:38 PM June 30, 2013

SSS’ real estate moves

The Social Security System is set to announce a new addition to its management team in the person of property market specialist Danilo Ignacio.

Prior to joining SSS, Ignacio headed Eton Properties of tycoon Lucio Tan where he oversaw the company’s expansion into a major player in the real estate industry with its aggressive foray into high-rise upscale condominiums like the Eton Residences in Greenbelt Mall in Makati City.


The other feather in his cap is the fact that Ignacio supervised the construction of the original Citibank Tower along Paseo de Roxas during his years with the global banking giant.

According to our sources, the state-administered pension fund is set to announce today a major real estate transaction. It is believed that SSS will unload a prime piece property, which has been idle in its books since the mid-1990s.

The property is an 8,300-square-meter lot in Bonifacio Global City reportedly worth at least P2 billion (possibly more).

Ignacio’s entry into SSS means the pension fund will most likely become more active in the real estate scene. It makes sense, given that it has more than P12 billion in “investment property” in its books, P3.2 billion in real estate that it is using and another P5.7 billion in “noncurrent assets held for sale”.

Of course, the sale of its BGC property—probably the most prime in its portfolio—raises questions as to whether the pension fund believes that prices have already peaked for this particular asset class. Daxim L. Lucas


Power play

Now that San Miguel Corp.’s 32.8-percent stake in Manila Electric Co. is on the auction block, there’s one party—aside of course from the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan that already controls the single biggest block in the utility (about 48 percent)—that is often cited by stock pundits as a potential buyer.


This is none other than the group of tycoon John Gokongwei. One popular theory is that if there’s any local group that MVP may be willing to share the Meralco boardroom with, it is the Gokongweis given their nascent alliance in the telecommunication and infrastructure businesses. Apart from being a friendly party, the Gokongwei group is among the few local conglomerates seen capable of absorbing the huge block in Meralco. Although market prices have fallen from recent highs, the value of the SMC stake is still sizable after all at P119.77 billion ($2.8 billion).

So Biz Buzz asked JG Summit Holdings president Lance Gokongwei whether investing in Meralco was in his group’s radar screen and this was his answer: “It was not offered to us and neither have we expressed interest.” Doris C. Dumlao

‘Invisible’ HR chief

The head of the human resources and administration division of the Philippine Stock Exchange has gone missing in action, prompting the bourse to sack him.

The PSE disclosed last week that it has terminated the employment of assistant vice president Sebastian Olaivar Jr. for “gross and habitual neglect of duties and serious misconduct, arising from his failure to perform his tasks and his prolonged absences.”

PSE sources said the exchange had not seen the HR chief for more than a month now. Yet it is widely believed that this person is just around but his going AWOL remains a mystery in the exchange. Doris C. Dumlao

No Juan flying to Europe

With rising prosperity and stable economic prospects, it’s indeed time that every Juan flies—just not to Europe anytime soon, apparently.

It seems an unfortunate string of events involving Cebu Pacific, namely landing mishaps in Davao and Manila, has temporarily hurt the budget carrier’s plans to mount more long-haul flights to prized overseas destinations.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Philippines (CAAP) itself has asked Cebu Pacific to inhibit itself from flying to Europe because of the recent incidents, both of which did not result in any physical injuries for passengers.

This means if European Union aviation regulators finally decide to remove the restrictions imposed since 2010, only Philippine Airlines will be allowed to mount flights to the continent, according to CAAP Deputy Director General John Andrews.

“They have inhibited themselves from getting out of the EU ban because of the incidents,” Andrews said.

Cebu Pacific has been eyeing flights beyond Asia. It is expanding its fleet with Airbus A330-300 planes, whose maximum 11-hour range can reach Australia, the Middle East, part of Europe and the United States.

The door will not be closed for long though, as Andrews said Cebu Pacific can apply to fly to Europe in six months’ time.

This should give the airline ample time to prepare ahead of the lifting of the EU ban, which government officials are confident will happen soon.

CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III is in Brussels, Belgium, to make a final presentation to European aviation regulators.

Should everything go according to plan, a favorable decision could be had by July 10 or within the first two weeks this month, CAAP said. Miguel R. Camus


Retailing stocks in Alabang

After earlier opening a branch in tycoon Andrew Tan’s upscale Lucky Chinatown Mall in Binondo, local stock brokerage AB Capital Securities is seeking to convert some shoppers in the Metro Gaisano Alabang mall into stock market investors.

“It’s a nice market out there,” Senen Matoto, president of parent firm AB Capital and Investment Corp., told Biz Buzz, referring to the mostly affluent suburban communities in Alabang. The new stock brokerage branch with an estimated footprint of 30-40 square meters is located at the supermarket area, apparently as a reminder to consumers that after buying their household needs, they can pick up some equities before heading home.

Matoto said the AB Capital group was unfazed by the recent market volatility, saying there was a lot of cash-awash people “just waiting for the dust to settle.”

It is not farfetched that the Metro Gaisano group (which bought AB Capital from Phinma in 2011) will bring this satellite model to areas outside Metro Manila. Matoto said it was logical given Metro Gaisano’s expertise in the retail business. Doris C. Dumlao

Model of fiscal virtue

While the Indonesian government is having difficulty implementing a highly unpopular plan to reduce, if not abolish, costly fuel subsidies, its officials are turning to their counterparts in the Philippines for some advice.

According to an official from the Department of Finance, some Indonesian government officials have expressed their intention to meet their Filipino counterparts given the Philippines’ experience in abolishing the Oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF) in the 1990s.

“They want to learn from us. They want to know how we were able to [remove the subsidies],” the DOF official said. “Our experience serves as a model for them.”

Due to the heavy burden caused by oil subsidies on state finances, the Indonesian government intends to scrap it. However, it is hampered by the expected public outrage over the lifting of subsidies.

Fuel subsidies in Indonesia are eating up a substantial portion of government funds and are taking away resources for other vital social services.

Turning to the Philippines for some advice may be prudent for Indonesia. After all, the Philippines has just been granted investment grades partly because of sound fiscal policies. Michelle V. Remo


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