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Biz Buzz: Century under-listing

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It has recently come to the attention of the Philippine Stock Exchange that property developer Century Properties Group is enjoying the perks of a publicly listed corporation when only 3.55 billion, or only 37 percent, of its 9.68 billion in outstanding common shares are actually listed.

The PSE’s rule is that all classes of shares of a public company must be applied for listing, although there seems to be some gray area on how soon this should be executed, allowing some companies to take their own sweet time before complying with full listing.

So we asked CPG about this and the company said it was indeed planning to list the rest of its outstanding shares “when practicable.”

The company told Biz Buzz: “The remaining shares are unlisted as CPG has been advised by counsel that while the listing of all shares is required, it is within the company’s discretion as to when to list its unlisted shares.”

As such, CPG—which entered the local bourse through the backdoor listing mode using dormant East Asia Power Resources Corp. as vehicle in 2011—argued that it was not in violation of any PSE law. Neither has it received any written advisory nor been penalized by the PSE for this.

But PSE sources said the local bourse has started scrutinizing all listed companies with incomplete listing of outstanding shares, but several sources noted that CPG’s case stood out in terms of sheer under-listing size as a ratio of total outstanding stocks. While it was true that the PSE has not penalized it, a PSE official said the local bourse would soon issue a “definitive compliance period” to CPG as well as to other similarly situated companies.

“To the extent we’ll allow a company to follow their timelines, we will and that’s why we’re working with them to fix this backlog,” the official said, adding that the PSE’s interest was in line with CPG’s. “It will improve trading liquidity and since they have a good growth story, why not list all other shares already issued?” the official asked, adding that the reluctance to list would only trigger a lot of speculation on the reason for doing so.

As this gray area has been uncovered, sources said the PSE would soon come up with tighter rules on the listing of all outstanding shares. This is right in time with the ongoing review toward the tightening of rules on backdoor listing and private placements.—Doris C. Dumlao

Once more, Citi, with feeling

Once or twice is not enough, so Philippine-based alumni of Citibank will again troop to their third reunion on Oct. 6, a Sunday, at the Bayanihan Event Center, near Unilab in Mandaluyong City. The group previously had reunions in 2009 at the Development Bank of the Philippines headquarters and in 2011 at the Philippine National Bank main building, hosted, of course, by ex-Citibankers in top management.

Hundreds (both junior and senior) attend these reunions, some of them belonging to the who’s who in business circles—something almost unavoidable because Citi has been in the Philippines since 1902.

This year, organizers expect some 400 alumni to attend the event dubbed “Balik Citi Ulit 2013.”

Of course, Citi alumni and retirees usually move on to other companies, proving the enduring usefulness of talent coming from what was once known as the “University of Banking.” Citi has been known as an excellent training ground for people management, not just in banking but in other disciplines as well. Their first reunion was dedicated to their most distinguished alumnus, the late Rafael B. Buenaventura, who became governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Some trivia: Metro Manila’s water supply is managed by ex-Citibankers: Gerry Ablaza of Manila Water and Ricky Vargas of Maynilad. The Bankers Association of the Philippines has been run successively by Citi alumni over the last decade—people like Gigi Montinola (BPI), Abet Villarosa (Security Bank) and now Lorenzo Tan (RCBC). Two of the biggest banks are also being run by ex-Citibankers: Flor Tarriela and Omar Mier at PNB, and Justo Ortiz and Victor Valdepeñas at Union Bank. Other ex-Citibankers who are bank presidents include Nina Aguas (PBCom), Tony Chua (Allied Bank) and Gil Buenaventura (DBP). Of course, Citi alumni Rene Almendras runs Malacañang, Hans Sicat runs the Philippine Stock Exchange, Robert Vergara runs GSIS, and Peter Favila is a member of the Monetary Board.

To be in step with the times, organizers have found a new mantra, “It’s more fun if you are an ex-Citibanker.”—Daxim L. Lucas

Bermudez returns

Veteran banker Joey Bermudez, former president of Chinatust Commercial Bank (Philippines) and the Management Association of the Philippines, is making a comeback to Philippine banking as president of Philippine Veterans Bank under a newly revitalized board chaired by former finance secretary Roberto de Ocampo.

Our sources said Bermudez would likely be confirmed by the PVB board in the next few days. At the PVB board, he will be working with the likes of former internal revenue and customs chief Guillermo Parayno; Judith Lopez, chair of Isla Lipana & Co. (Philippine member firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers) and concurrently president of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex); Nieves Confesor, dean of the Asian Institute of Management and former labor secretary; and veteran banker Alfonso “Boy” Cruz, formerly with Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines. Bermudez is the person the board believes can elevate PVB—a private commercial bank owned by some 400,000 World War II veterans and their heirs—into a more relevant position in the local banking industry.—Doris C. Dumlao

The ‘next president’

The Binays, led by patriarch Vice President Jejomar Binay, all graced last Thursday’s opening of the plush The City Club, the newest urban leisure club in town built by upscale developer Alphaland Corp. of businessman Roberto Ongpin. Binay’s children, newly elected Sen. Nancy Binay, Rep. Abigail Binay and Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, were all there.

The elder Binay said in his speech that the Makati Place project where The City Club is located was close to his heart not only as former long-time mayor of Makati but as president of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, on whose property the project stands (and with which Alphaland has entered into a joint-venture development).

The biggest announcement for the night was not the P1-million, one-night-only price for club shares for the mostly well-heeled guests but Alphaland chair Roberto V. Ongpin’s declaration that he had no doubt that Binay will be the “next president” of the country.

Much pilloried in the last three years due to his ties and friendship with former first gentleman Mike Arroyo, if there’s one businessman most eagerly looking forward to 2016, RVO is it.—Doris C. Dumlao

‘Mel and Ciel’ in Frontier Oil

Ahead of its stock market debut this year, oil exploration firm Frontier Oil Corp. has enlisted two former top economic managers to join its board as independent directors. The first independent director is economist Cielito Habito, a former economic planning secretary and author of the weekly column “No Free Lunch” in this paper. The other is Melito Salazar Jr., former managing head of the Board of Investment and Monetary Board member.

“The appointment of these two highly credentialed professionals reaffirms our commitment to ensuring financial prudence and unscrupulous corporate governance, and they represent a valuable boost to our leadership experience and expertise as we move toward listing on the Philippine Stock Exchange later this year. I look forward to working closely with both Mel and Ciel in the exciting times ahead as Frontier continues to assert itself as a vibrant and dynamic player in the Philippine oil and gas industry,” Frontier president and chief executive Kristoffer Fellowes said.

Salazar and Habito join the Frontier Oil’s board chaired by fund manager (and eligible bachelor) Astro del Castillo.

Frontier holds a diversified oil and gas exploration portfolio spanning across each of the country’s three most prospective geological basins, including exploration targets in the ultra-deep waters offshore Palawan. It holds interests or rights to interests in four of the 23 active exploration service contracts currently in place with the Department of Energy.

After its initial public offering, Frontier Oil plans to commence production at both the Nassipping gasfield located in service contract (SC) 52 onshore Luzon and the KJF oilfield located in SC 50 offshore Busuanga.—Doris C. Dumlao

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Tags: Banking , Binays , Century Properties Group , Cielito Habito , Citi alumni , Citibank , Frontier Oil Corp. , Jejomar Binay , Joey Bermudez , Melito Salazar Jr. , Philippine Stock Exchange , Philippine veterans bank , property , reunions , Roberto Ongpin , The City Club



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