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Biz Buzz: Looming upgrade

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It seems the folks over at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines are expecting some good news to come out of Wednesday’s “validating visit” by inspectors of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Government insiders told Biz Buzz that there was some “coordination” between CAAP and handlers involved with US President Barack Obama’s anticipated visit to the Philippines and other Asian neighbors next month.

We asked CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III about this on Tuesday but he only remarked that it would take the FAA team “about a month” before the results would be announced, likely by the US State Department.

The FAA team visiting the Philippines is being led by John Barbagallo, who was also part of the delegation that downgraded the Philippines from its Category 1 status to the current Category 2 six years ago.

Getting Category 1 would be welcome news for local carriers like Philippine Airlines, which would be allowed to expand its operations in the United States and deploy newer planes. Cebu Pacific, too, would benefit in the long run as it earlier announced eventual plans to fly to Hawaii.

Assuming the best-case scenario, these are exciting times indeed for Philippine aviation—Miguel R. Camus

Top Pinay asset managers

Two Filipinos are on the roster of Asia-Pacific’s 25 “most influential” women in the asset management scene as handpicked by financial publication AsianInvestor.

They are Maria Theresa “Tere” Marcial-Javier, senior vice president and head of asset management and trust group at Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands, and Ramona Gertrudes “Winnie” Santiago, assistant governor and head of treasury at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Marcial-Javier, the youngest member of BPI’s senior management team, heads a group that manages close to P600 billion in assets. She has about two decades of experience in investment research, portfolio management, trading and investment firm operations and business strategy. She is also a fitness buff, an advanced diver and always looks picture-perfect.

Santiago, on the other hand, leads the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ treasury department. She helps manage the country’s international reserves at a level and a mix that allows the monetary authority to meet any demands for foreign currency. Her group likewise executes the BSP’s open-market operations and transactions with government securities dealers and the rest of the members of the banking system in pursuit of strategies for the development of an active secondary market for treasury bills and bonds.

Shortly after the International Women’s Day celebration, the 25 “most influential” women were handpicked by AsianInvestor—a news source for asset management, mutual funds, alternatives, private banking and financial service providers—from a shortlist of 100 candidates.

The final list, which was published on March 24, also included CEOs and chief investment officers from large institutions across the region.

AsianInvestor’s awarding ceremonies will take place in Hong Kong on May 20.—Doris Dumlao

Homestretch tit-for-tat

Like we predicted earlier, the tiff between the Filinvest-Changi group and the Megawide-GMR consortium over the Mactan Cebu International Airport project will get worse before it gets better.

The latest salvo comes from the lawyers of the Gotianun-controlled conglomerate who disputed allegations made by the pro-Megawide camp about supposed irregularities at a Filinvest project in Cebu City called Citta de Mare.

Filinvest’s lawyers said that from 2010 to 2013, the real estate firm had already remitted P1.7 billion, including the P309 million representing the city government’s share in the joint venture.

Filinvest also did not have the obligation to pay the Cebu City government P500 million by the end of 2013, as alleged by the pro-Megawide camp. In fact, the joint venture was audited by SGV & Co., which supposedly noted that the firm had remitted to Cebu City more than what was required of it.

In other words, Filinvest said it was not remiss in its obligations to the city.

In any case, the Department of Transportation and Communications has promised to make a decision by next week as to which consortium—Megawide-GMR or Filinvest-Changi—will get the P17-billion project.

Expect more tit-for-tat statements in the media until then as the P14-billion Filinvest-Changi bid tries to outmaneuver the P14.4-billion Megawide-GMR bid.—Daxim L. Lucas

Aboitiz mulls PNG

If Meralco has gone to Singapore (and even as far as Nigeria) while every big conglomerate in town seems to be plotting a future roadmap with a more regional perspective these days, what is the Aboitiz group up to?

In a recent interview with FinanceAsia, Aboitiz Power chief finance officer Iker Aboitiz was quoted as saying that AP was looking for opportunities in other emerging markets. Papua New Guinea was mentioned by Aboitiz as one market that the Cebu-based group might be interested in bringing its power generation and distribution expertise to.

After building its local businesses to be one of the country’s largest in the energy industry, Aboitiz indicated to the Hong Kong-based publication that the power group was now more confident in bringing its operational and management expertise to overseas markets.—Doris C. Dumlao

 

Henares eyes stockbrokers

Members of the business community are always jittery when the Bureau of Internal Revenue comes around snooping for potential sources of taxes.

And of late, it has been the turn of the local financial community stockbrokers to rail against the taxman’s policies.

According to a source, BIR now has a rule requiring stockbrokerage firms to turn over their so-called “alpha list” of clients who benefited from dividends.

Apparently, authorities wanted to clamp down on tax evaders who claim to source income from dividends (which are subject to preferential tax rates).

But stockbrokers are aghast since the BIR’s policy will result in capital flight, courtesy of secretive investors who want to keep their financial affairs private.

“Our clients are private and BIR wants to extrapolate from the information that they’re asking for,” said one worried broker.

As expected, of course, BIR chief Kim Henares is unmoved.

“They should have been reporting the stock transaction tax and who paid for it,” she said. “That has been there for a long time and they should have been doing that long ago.”

She added that the BIR can also require anyone to surrender information in the event that it is requested by a “foreign competent authority” (e.g. for anti-money laundering).

“Failure to provide the same is subject to penal provision,” she said. See? Unmoved.—Daxim L. Lucas

Happier apart

Remember the white shoe law firm popularly called “The Firm” before the schism that hit it last year?

Well, one side of the previously united legal powerhouse is still called The Firm—namely the Villaraza and Angangco side—and it has been busy beefing up its manpower base.

We learned that the group led by founder “Pancho” Villaraza has hired eight newly minted lawyers from this year’s batch of bar passers. In fact, one of them is Cyril Arnesto of the University of the Philippines who placed tenth in the most recent edition of the bar exams.

We hear that, of these eight new lawyers, five are from UP while three are from the Ateneo.

All told, the Villaraza and Angangco law firm now has 42 lawyers on its roster—a quantum leap over the eight lawyers (in total, including senior and name partners) who were left with them “post-divorce” with the Cruz-Marcelo side, which had 15 partners at the time of the breakup.

Meanwhile, we hear that both legal groups have come to somewhat of a modus vivendi, allowing for a less stressful working environment in the building that they share in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

The Cruz Marcelo and Tenefracia law office got four floors of the 12-storey building, post-divorce, while Villaraza and Angangco got the rest (including the famous Rainmakers lounge at the penthouse).

Partners from both groups, however, still share elevators rides. Those, we’re told, can be awkward sometimes. Daxim L. Lucas

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