Biz BuzzBy the staff |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Vanity’s not fair
Last month’s Vanity Fair spread detailing a $15-million residence and a $3-million self-portrait collection of Jose Roberto Antonio, son of Century Properties Group founder Jose E.B. Antonio, might have been a big hit to its readers, but it appears the article was less favored back at home.
Sources close to Antonio told Biz Buzz that the figures in the article, which disclosed that the scion’s house was designed by the Dutch Pritzker Prize winner Rem Koolhas, were “exaggerated.”
“It’s very bloated,” one of the sources said without elaborating on the actual value. The house, which will be a series of boxes stacked together in an irregular pattern, was the first residential commission by Koolhas in 15 years, the article noted. It was named “Stealth” by the younger Antonio himself and will display his art collection, which has come to include two dozen self-portraits of the 36-year-old scion by leading contemporary artists like Julian Schnabel and Takashi Murakami.
Members of the Antonio family were mum on the topic while Roberto, a managing director at Century, did a little stealth act on his own and missed the builder’s annual stockholders’ meeting early this week as he was traveling abroad.
Even as family members downplayed the article, the aspirational nature it suggests is very much in the DNA of Century Properties, which has gained recognition for its co-branding deals with international celebrities like Paris Hilton and Donald Trump. This has also caught the attention of investors. The company widened its analyst coverage to include foreign houses like UBS, Macquarie, Religaire as well as local players Abacus and COL Financial.
We hear two more houses, Maybank ATR KimEng and Philippine Equity Partners, could initiate their coverage as well. Miguel R. Camus
Avoid the ‘Dark Side’
With less than a year serving in a key government post and working usually “behind the scene” prior to her recent appointment, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon would initially seem feeling awkward speaking before a crowd, especially those made up of snooty men and women in business suits.
But the petite, low-key lady exuded with confidence and won the crowd when she attended a recent economic forum and delivered a speech that quoted from the great Master Yoda of the iconic Star Wars series. Urging financial market players to refrain from showing fear of uncertainties in the outside world in making trading decisions, De Leon said they should heed the advice of the prominent Star Wars character.
She said the domestic financial markets should not have been as volatile as they had been recently if fund owners and traders exhibited the bravery and faith taught by the Jedi master. Stressing the point that the Philippines was strong enough to withstand external shocks, De Leon said financial market players should believe more in the country’s encouraging macroeconomic fundamentals. She told her audience: “In the sage words of the great Master Yoda, ‘fear is a path to the dark side.’ Thus we urge you to supplant fear with cautious optimism as we build on past achievements and consolidate momentum toward greater heights.”
De Leon, whose speech was initially expected to be boring as she repeatedly looked on her paper for guidance, eventually humored the audience and ended her talk not only well applauded but widely cheered. Michelle V. Remo
New PPP meaning
Views that infrastructure projects under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) program are taking too much time to roll apparently are not exclusive to private-sector observers but have been a subject of jokes among government economic officials as well.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, who is taking the lead in the government’s push for the PPP program, might not know it but a few of his colleagues joke about the seemingly slow progress of the infrastructure projects.
“What PPP? Power point presentation?” an economic official said when the topic of PPP was raised by reporters. The official said there has been a running joke among a few economic officials that the PPP was now more popularly known as an abbreviation for “power point presentation” rather than “public-private partnership” because of its excruciatingly slow pace implementation.
Purisima defense was the same: The Aquino administration wants to make sure that the projects are done aboveboard and can withstand scrutiny even after a new administration steps in. He said the process of bidding out and awarding contracts should be transparent and should have integrity to avoid problems related with allegations of corruption. Michelle V. Remo
Not everyone’s complaining about the implementation of the new excise tax rates on cigarettes.
While the bigger brands such as Fortune Tobacco, Philip Morris and Marlboro are blaming the higher tax rates for the significant drop in volume because of the resulting higher selling prices as well as alleged smuggling, one brand is raking it in.
We’re talking about the Mighty cigarettes manufactured by Mighty Corp. in Malolos, Bulacan. Word has it that this brand has practically doubled sales in the first six months due to its “friendly” selling price of less than P16 a pack or less than P1 a stick. Marlboro red now costs P50 a pack.
Apparently, nicotine addicts who needed to have their fix but did not have the funds to continue patronizing their old favorite brand are happy to make the switch. Tina Arceo-Dumlao
Helped by the competition
Who says competition is bad for business? Not Martin Lorenzo, chair and CEO of casual dining group Pancake House Inc., whose business has actually received a lift from the entry of the US-based IHOP chain early this year.
IHOP, which opened its first store in Bonifacio Global City in February, created quite a stir, not just for its American-style pancakes and hearty sandwiches and omelets, but also for its long queues.
But instead of hurting sales at Pancake House, which offers a combination of American and Filipino comfort food items, Lorenzo said sales actually increased 30 percent on opening day.
Readers might be thinking, like we did, that people hankering for the fluffy breakfast staple couldn’t stand to wait in line and just headed to the nearest Pancake House restaurant.
That is only partly true, Lorenzo says. What really happened was more people simply took to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to talk about pancakes, thus, indirectly serving as free advertising for the biggest pancake chain in town.
“It increased awareness of pancakes,” he said.
Lorenzo, who has been growing his business through a combination of acquisitions and organic expansion, isn’t afraid to try new things.
He may soon add a “high-end” version of Japanese brands Teriyaki Boy and Sizzlin’ Pepper Steak to the group. This is similar to what he did with upscale brands Maple, a spin-off of the Pancake House brand itself, and Kabisera ng Dencio’s.
If it pushes through, the new concept will add yet another name to the group’s existing portfolio, which also includes the Yellow Cab pizza chain and French-style café Le Coeur de France.
While margins are better in this segment, Lorenzo admits that expansion will be limited.
Maple, for instance, has only two outlets: San Antonio Plaza in Forbes Park, Makati and Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong. Lorenzo says he can open just one more store in Alabang. Miguel R. Camus
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