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Real jockeying begins

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BIZ BUZZ

Real jockeying begins

/ 07:50 PM December 22, 2013

As is usually the practice, the highest bidder in any government project is usually subjected to more stringent examination and questioning after the submission of financial bids before the concession is awarded to them.

In this case, the Megawide-GMR Infrastructure consortium is no different, although the examination and questioning seems to be coming from an incredulous public at this point.

This early, rumors have already emerged about the supposedly poor track record of Megawide’s partner—India’s GMR—that was supposedly not disclosed to the bids and awards committee of the Department of Transportation and Communications, which oversees the Mactan-Cebu International Airport project.

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These rumors point to earlier foreign news articles detailing how the government of Maldives voided a deal with GMR for  supposedly failing to deliver on its commitments. Another report pointed to GMR’s Delhi International Airport project where India’s state auditors cited the company for trying to pass on a portion of the project costs to the traveling public (instead of shouldering it).

Given the country’s history of controversies in airport projects, the DOTC will likely take a close look at these allegations during the post-bid evaluation period (and, in the process, raising the hopes of a few other bidders who are crossing their fingers).

From what we hear, at least two of the seven participating consortia want GMR disqualified. In fact, one bidder—the putative frontrunner going into the bidding’s homestretch—wants the entire process nullified and re-booted, we hear. Daxim L. Lucas

Taipan slips into Tacloban

Media shy tycoon Lucio Tan was spotted in Tacloban City during the weekend while playing Santa to thousands of families rendered homeless by last month’s Supertyphoon. This was, apparently, the second time “Kapitan” (as he is known to his associates) visited Ground Zero since “Yolanda” devastated Eastern Visayas.

Earlier, his companies—led by Asia Brewery, along with co-owned Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp., PAL and PAL Express—made separate contributions to the relief effort.

Accompanied by officers of Tan Yan Kee Foundation Inc. and the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., Tan became the first taipan to personally visit the calamity zone (twice, at that).

Tan is, of course, the subject of rumors every now and then about his supposed declining health. But those who saw him in action in Tacloban were amazed that the barong-clad taipan (who turned 80 this year) remains very active and hands-on especially when it comes to his group’s philanthropic efforts. Daxim L. Lucas

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School fetes leaders

Rex Mendoza, president and CEO of Philam Life, and Wellington Soong, whose firms distributes Jaguar, Ferrari and Land Rover in the Philippines, are among the four Business Administration graduates who were recently recognized as Distinguished Alumnus of the UP Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business.

Mendoza graduated in 1983 while Soong, founder, chair and president of Frigate Holdings and Management Corp., finished his course in 1963.

Other awardees for 2013 are Filomena M. Cantoria (BSBA 1958), professor emerita of the University of Guam and Commissioner of the Guam Public Utilities Commission, and Jeffrey Stewart Go (BSBA 1990), group managing director of Johnson & Johnson, overseeing Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. He is also president and managing director of J & J Philippines.

All four of them were present during the simple awarding ceremony at noon on Dec. 7 at the college building. It was the highlight of the annual alumni homecoming of the college, which has a tradition of producing top players in the local corporate world. Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Ex-biz partners take it to court

The fight between former business partners Jimmy Gow of Uniwide fame and Jacinto Ng Sr. of Manila Bay Development Corp. for control of the valuable piece of property on which Uniwide Coastal Mall stands is about to be ratcheted up by a few notches.

Biz Buzz has learned that small investors of Uniwide Holdings Inc. are suing the head of MBDC and two former Uniwide executives for estafa. These small investors believe that the accused had allegedly “conspired to defraud” the former warehouse club operator of P2.1 billion, which—if the petitioners are to be believed—contributed to Uniwide’s financial troubles in the wake of the 1997 East Asian financial crisis.

In particular, one stockholder, Brenelie Rualo, recently filed before the Office of the City Prosecutor in Makati City an estafa complaint against Ng, along with Jimmy Cabangis and Corazon Rey for allegedly “squandering” P1.7 billion of UHI funds for the construction of its Coastal Mall, and then reportedly defrauding the company of P381 million more through the payment of unnecessary mall rentals.

To recall, the Coastal Mall was envisioned in the 1990s to become the country’s biggest shopping mall complex (long before SM Mall of Asia was conceived), and was built on a 10-hectare portion of MBDC’s 40-hectare Central Business Park II in Parañaque City at that time when Cabangis and Rey were Uniwide’s respective chief financial officer and controller.

In her complaint, Rualo said she was filing the case against the trio on behalf of more than 15,000 “similarly situated” investors who bought a combined P4 billion worth of stocks during Uniwide’s 1996 initial public offering.

(Ng’s camp had, in recent months, told Biz Buzz that these were part of efforts to discredit him and eventually gain control of the property, which has become more valuable in recent years, thanks to the nearby Pagcor Entertainment City development. Ng’s group also points out that Uniwide defaulted on rental payments to MBDC as early as 2005.)

For sure, we haven’t seen the last of this case, especially with property prices in the area skyrocketing in recent years. Stay tuned. Daxim L. Lucas

Naia bill shock

It’s not only telco customers who are experiencing the occasional “bill shock.” Over the last week, at least, jet-setting motorists have been feeling the pinch of higher parking fees and they’re taking their rants online.

Triggering this, of course, was the Dec. 1 implementation of new parking rates at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals in Manila. The hit was naturally felt most among travelers used to using Naia’s uncovered parking lots, sometimes for several days at a time.

The problem is that the unusually low P50 overnight parking fee— that’s the equivalent of a few hours’ parking at some shopping malls— was jacked up to P300 a day at the beginning of the month.

Car owners will be charged another P15 for every hour exceeding the 24-hour period or if they stay another day, that’s P300 again.

Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Honrado told Biz Buzz that complaints were expected. “There was an increase but this is not a new development. We had a hearing on this last year,” noting that the proper announcements were made and the move was long overdue.

He added that the rates were still lower than nearby establishments like Park ‘N Fly, which charges about P380 a day.

That didn’t stop some angry travelers from sharing their Naia bill shock experiences online.

One netizen, who was shocked to be charged P1,200 for four days, believed the increase was unwarranted given that the parking lot was “terribly designed” and had “questionable security.”

The author also lamented what could have been bought with that money: A nice pair of sneakers or a couple of margaritas, beer and a quesadilla at a restaurant near Singapore’s night life hub, Clark Quay.

Those problems aside, it raises the question whether the government could have done more to inform the public. There might be room for improvement. MIAA’s website, for example, still states that overnight parking “costs only P50 per day.”

There’s one foolproof way to protect yourself, of course. Read before you park. Miguel R. Camus

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TAGS: Business, economy, Lucio Tan, News, Tacloban, Yolanda
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