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Biz Buzz: BCDA’s legal battle

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Biz Buzz: BCDA’s legal battle

/ 04:40 AM October 22, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–The long-running battle between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and CJH Development Corp. led by businessman Robert John Sobrepeña rages on and, from the looks of it, is nowhere near its end.

At stake is the control and possession of the 247-hectare section inside the former US military recreational facility in Baguio known as Camp John Hay. Sobrepeña’s group won the bid to develop the property in the 1990s, but stopped paying lease rentals to the government since 1998.

According to BCDA, the arrears of the Sobrepeña group have since ballooned to P3.4 billion (25 percent of which is supposed to go to the city government of Baguio).

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To make a long story short, Sobrepeña—who is more popular for his forays into real estate (via Fil-Estate) and pre-need services (via the bankrupt College Assurance Plan)—says his CJH Development firm is not making enough money to pay rent to BCDA. The BCDA, meanwhile, thinks CJH is understating its earnings just to dodge payments. In any case, BCDA wants Sobrepeña out of John Hay, while the latter is holding on to it tight.

Last week, BCDA celebrated a legal victory after the Court of Appeals overturned a pro-Sobrepeña decision of the Baguio Regional Trial Court in 2012, which issued an injunction against the BCDA’s move to eject the businessman.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the P736-million bond posted by the Sobrepeña group for its case in the Baguio RTC, via a firm known as First Integrated Bonding and Insurance Corp., was invalid. According to BCDA, the firm was not accredited by either the Insurance Commission or the Supreme Court to conduct business with any court in the country.

More importantly, First Integrated is supposedly (according to the BCDA camp) partly owned by a lady who goes by the name of “Janet Lim Napoles.” As of last year, the company had assets of P307 million which is less than half of the bond required, BCDA said.

But wait. Not so fast, says CJH Development, through its press statements. First Integrated is in the process of answering BCDA’s assertions, it said. And according to the pro-Sobrepeña grapevine, there’s no truth to the Napoles link either.

So who’s right, and who’s wrong? Who knows. What’s clear is that no rent is being paid for the use by a private entity of a government property. And no one knows how long this impasse will continue.–Daxim L. Lucas

Ashmore exits Alphaland

Property developer Alphaland Corp. was stricken off the roster of the Philippine Stock Exchange on Oct. 20, but not before completing the stock transactions needed to formalize its break-up with British fund Ashmore and allow minority investors to exit.

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On Friday, the last trading day before its delisting, Ashmore group was able to give back to the group of businessman Roberto V. Ongpin a.k.a. RVO—through a cross transaction at the local bourse—1.376 billion common shares equivalent to a 41-percent stake in Alphaland.

RVO’s group, through Alphaland Development Inc. (ADI), also bought 2.67 million shares, or 89.3 percent, of public float from minority shareholders at P9.03 per share.

“Everything is done. Now, we’re back to a privately owned company which is good for us,” said Alphaland president Mario Oreta. “Our float was only 10 percent. Our shares were not actively traded. It’s better to go back to being a private company.”

While the stock transactions have been finished, Ashmore has yet to take possession of the property assets ceded by RVO’s group as part of the compromise settlement but sources said it was halfway through the process.

The assets that Ashmore will acquire from Alphaland are The Alphaland Tower (Ayala Avenue, Makati); the marina project along the Manila Bay reclamation area (Parañaque City); 50 percent of Alphaland Bay City—joint venture with the Wenceslao group (Aseana Business Park in Parañaque); and a 60-percent interest in the Boracay Gateway project (Aklan).

After consolidating control of Alphaland, RVO’s group will, in turn, keep the Alphaland Southgate office and mall tower, the Makati Place (including The City Club), island-resort development Balesin Island Club and Baguio Mountain Lodge Homes.–Doris C. Dumlao

CFA forum

Several high-profile foreign investment experts are in town to speak before about 200 institutional investors on Wednesday at a forum organized by the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute and CFA Society of the Philippines at Fairmont Makati.

These include: Timothy Moe, chief for Asia-Pacific regional equity strategist for global investment research at Goldman Sachs; Simon Rudolph, executive vice president at Franklin Templeton Investments (Asia) Ltd; Jim Walker, chief economist at Asianomics Group; Martin Fridson, financial writer and author of “How to Be a Billionaire” and chief investment officer at Lehman, Livian, Fridson Advisors LL; Jack Gray, Adjust Professor and director at University of Technology (Sydney)’s Centre for Capital Market Dysfunctionality; and Tan Chin Hwee, founding partner and head of Asian capital markets businesses at Apollo Management Inc.

The CFA forum will also have representatives from the Philippine government and the private sector to share their views on the sustainability of the country’s economic growth beyond 2016, including National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson and Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo.

“For the attendees, they will be able to assess whether or not Philippine economic growth is sustainable in light of numerous risks,” said CFA Society president April Lee-Tan.

“Although we’ve been recovering for a long time, there continue to be a lot of skeptics. The conference aims to bring a holistic view on whether or not growth is sustainable because people are talking about domestic and other risks.”

Whoever will lead the next administration, Lee-Tan said, would have to convince everyone that he or she could continue the thrust that “good governance is good economics.”–Doris C. Dumlao

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TAGS: alphaland corp., ashmore, Baguio, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Camp John Hay, CFA forum, CFA Institute, CFA Society of the Philippines, CJH Development Corp., court, legal battle, property
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