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Ever play

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BIZ BUZZ

Ever play

/ 12:42 AM March 03, 2014

Some 897 million shares of debt-strapped mall and cinema operator Ever Gotesco Resources and Holdings Inc. were crossed at the Philippine Stock Exchange at 19.50 centavos each on Wednesday last week, raising backdoor-listing speculations. The crossed shares were equivalent to about 18 percent of the company’s outstanding stocks and boosted Ever’s share price that day by 48.72 percent.

Due to Ever’s nature of business, the property group of Mang Inasal founder Edgar Sia and Jollibee founder Tony Tan Caktiong was rumored to be the buying party, possibly because their soon-to-list Double Dragon Properties Corp. is rolling out a nationwide chain of community malls (and has taken in SM group as a partner in this segment).

The Chan brothers of Oishi maker Liwayway group was also rumored to be part of the deal. Sia himself clarified to Biz Buzz, however, that his group was not involved in this transaction. He also explained that the Chan family was his group’s partner in a different company (Hotel of Asia Inc.) focusing on hotel and resort ventures.

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Stock pundits also theorize a big retailer could also be the new investor in Ever, whether for the value of its listed shell company or the remaining property assets, however encumbered. The Ever Gotesco group, for instance, still controls a land and mall complex in Pasig City, which secure certain loans from a syndicated lender banks. The company defaulted in its loan obligations, which led to the foreclosure and sale through public auction in 1999, but under a compromise with lenders, it continues to operate the mall.

The group also owns a parcel of land in Calamba, Laguna, which was acquired as a result of the compromise agreement with creditors.

So … will the new investor please stand up and be recognized? Doris C. Dumlao

Beefing up PNB Gen

Tycoon Lucio Tan-led Philippine National Bank is recapitalizing its non-life insurance unit PNB General Insurers Inc., which was earlier reported to be expecting P700 million to P800 million in potential losses arising from property damage claims following a string of natural disasters like Typhoons “Maring” and “Santi,” the earthquake in Bohol and Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

The bank’s board has approved PNB’s equity investment of P600 million in PNB Gen subject to the approval of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Meanwhile, in line with PNB’s post-merger plan to relocate its head office to the Allied Bank building along Ayala Avenue in Makati in the foreseeable future, the bank is amending its charter to state that its principal office and place of business will be in Metro Manila, deleting the old headquarters’ address at PNB Financial Center along the Diosdado Macapagal Blvd. in Pasay City. Doris C. Dumlao

Upping the ante

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The buzz a few weeks back was that Vice President Jejomar Binay had turned down the “application” of this certain businessman to run as the former’s vice president in the 2016 elections.

Well, word on the street now is that the Vice President may have had a change of heart, of late. This was supposedly after the businessman came back to him and disclosed just how much he was willing to put on the table to ensure an election victory for the would-be president-vice president tandem.

“P5 billion,” said the businessman.

Just the other day, news reports said that the Vice President had expressed his preference that an economist (rather than a politician) be his running mate come 2016.

Economist. Businessman. Close enough. Daxim L. Lucas

Tight

In the Philippines, business and politics are tightly interwoven. And when it comes to business, many leading lights of commerce want to strengthen ties with government officials, understandably.

Sometimes the relatives of businessmen work for key government officials, and sometimes the relatives of government officials are hired by influence-seeking companies. It all makes for a tight weave of relationships. But one particular case is tighter than others, it seems.

Biz Buzz learned that a key government department has on its roll of personnel the child of an influential business leader. No big deal there, since situations like this have happened before. However, insiders point out that the department plays a big role in the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. The thing is, the family of this department staffer owns and controls a company that is directly involved in several PPP projects.

As it is, department insiders feel that their young co-worker is already “too close to the action,” given the aggressive moves of this particular firm in the PPP field. The employees of this department could not, of course, bring their worries before the concerned Cabinet member because of the perceived tight relationship between their boss and the private corporation.

For one, the Cabinet member’s relative also works in one of the large corporation’s units.

In fairness to the owners of the company though, we hear that it was the Cabinet member who invited the child of the owner to work for the department. Perhaps he promised the company’s principal that he’d take care of and expose his child to how things are done in government? Or maybe the Cabinet member has foresight and is merely looking beyond 2016. Who knows? Daxim L. Lucas

Airport of the (distant) future

All roads (or airways) point to Sangley Point in Cavite or Laguna Lake, via reclamation, as the possible location of a new international air gateway to Metro Manila as the government learns, like several top developers already do, that it’s hard to get huge tracts of land at a good price when everyone knows you need it.

The new airport would require at least 2,000 hectares of land located 20 to 30 minutes away from Metro Manila. It would be an alternative to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the southern part of the capital district, where major expansion is highly limited given its location within the city.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya noted that given these parameters, it was almost “impossible” to find the required land at a reasonable price. He said they might be able to secure 1,000 hectares but speculators would always be a step ahead and secure everything else around it. He said this was why the possibility of settling at Sangley Point, where the government operates a seaport and airport, or creating new land in Laguna de Bay, were being considered.

Nevertheless, the government is not in any rush and the final location would also depend on a study being conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Speculators, too, might have to wait some time since the government is giving itself a lot of leeway to complete the airport, with its latest target seen at 2027.

And we know beating infrastructure deadlines isn’t exactly the trend nowadays. Miguel R. Camus

Tapa everywhere

The competition in the fastfood business is cutthroat, but Tapa King seems ready for the fight going forward.

We heard that the company—still serving its trademark tapa after 25 years in operation—recently opened its own production plant and commissary in the Laguna Techno Park. As such, company officials believe it’s time to move from “taking care of the basics” (i.e. the production plant and commissary) to improving their customers’ overall experience. In fact, we hear that Tapa King will soon launch a new look for its stores as well as a new set of product offerings under an expanded menu.

The company is also embarking on a franchisee expansion program with the recent opening of its Iba, Zambales, branch and soon in Farmers’ Market and La Union. With a store already in operation in Singapore and a corporate store opening soon in Las Vegas, the company has recently inked franchisee agreements for stores in Queens in New York, Rome and Dubai.

The Dubai franchise is handled by LMZ Cuisines, which is part of the Landmark Zenath Group, a leading business house of UAE, based in Dubai, with interests in real estate, hospitality, restaurants, engineering and construction, trading and media throughout the Middle East and India.

Tapa King continues to be one of the fastfood industry’s fastest rising brands, and a 100-percent homegrown food chain at that. Riza T. Olchondra

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TAGS: Business, economy, Ever Gotesco, Lucio Tan, News, Philippine Stock Exchange, Sangley Point, Tapa King
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