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Biz Buzz: Wenceslao takes on SM

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Biz Buzz: Wenceslao takes on SM

/ 02:55 AM December 08, 2014

As if the scramble for the Manila Bay reclamation project among big property developers isn’t enough, the Wenceslao group has joined the fray by claiming “prior right” over the 300-hectare area awarded by the Parañaque City government to SM Land Inc. that is now subject to a price challenge.

The Wenceslaos’ R1 Consortium—the company that reclaimed the land that now hosts Solaire, Aseana City and Pagcor Entertainment City—has notified the Parañaque City government about its prior right over the 300-hectare reclamation and is now “willing and ready to exercise” its right to reclaim more, harping on its track record and technical expertise in land reclamation.

R1 claimed its contract with the national government through the Philippine Estates Authority (now Philippine Reclamation Authority) had mandated it to reclaim the land at zero cost to the government.

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Apart from its contract to reclaim more than 200 hectares way back in 1991, R1 said its contract specified that “PEA shall not authorize the undertaking of future reclamation works on the Manila Bay front of Island C without the written consent of the consortium.”

Island C refers to the area where Solaire and Aseana City are located and this is the prior right that the group is now invoking.

R1 is the same group behind the Ciudad Nuevo land reclamation project in Cavite City. It is also proposing to reclaim 1,400 hectares adjacent to the Sangley Point military base as a possible alternative location for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

SM Land’s unsolicited proposal will be subjected to a price challenge and among those which had expressed interest are Ayala Land Inc. and tycoon George Ty’s Federal Land. But since the requirements are hard to complete, the plausible outcome is that it’s still SM which will get it. But if there’s basis to the Wenceslaos’ claim of prior right, this could lead to another court battle.

Meanwhile, the Wenceslaos seem to be cozier with the Kastilaloys than the Chinoys in this part of the metropolis.

Our sources said the Wenceslaos were in talks to lease out a portion of its coastal bay estate—that part still partially submerged in water for now and very close to the burgeoning gaming strip in Pagcor City—to Ayala Land. While the Ayalas have avoided any gaming-oriented property involvement, there’s no stopping them from building a new shopping mall just behind the future Resorts World Bayshore (and in between Solaire and City of Dreams) if a deal with the Wenceslaos would push through.—Doris C. Dumlao

Telco shakeup

 

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You may think that the telecommunications business has become staid and boring nowadays, with the war between Smart Communications and Globe Telecom having entered into the legal arena with its hard-to-digest jargon. But such is not the case when it comes to telco personalities, apparently.

Biz Buzz has heard from a reliable source that Smart Communications chief technology officer Olan Peña had gone on an indefinite leave of absence. Peña was replaced last November by technology consultant Richard Zawila, who now heads the network of the telco.

Our source speculates that this change in leadership in the group may have something to do with the free Internet and unlimited Facebook access promos which the country’s biggest telco made available to its clients a few weeks ago. Hmmm. Peña used to be with the network services of Smart and Smart Broadband Inc. before he was appointed chief technology officer in 2007.

Meanwhile, Globe, too, has had its own personnel changes.

Effective Dec. 31, 2014, Chee Loo Fun—who has been with the Ayala-run telco since 2011—will cease to be its senior adviser for consumer marketing. The company said that Chee brought with her “many years of in-depth telco and brand expertise to help continue the strong growth momentum of the company’s Consumer Business.”

She also headed the development of the revitalized Globe brand and its re-launch in late 2013. No replacement was announced, however.

Meanwhile, G-Xchange Inc. announced the resignation of its president, Paolo Baltao, effective Dec. 2014, with Xavier Marzan replacing him. Baltao spent the last decade building the telco’s mobile commerce business and under him, GXI introduced products such as Power Pay Plus, American Express Virtual Pay and Globe Charge.

Should the market expect an intensified telco war with all these staff movements? Most certainly.—Daxim L. Lucas

Emirates influence

Those following airline-related controversies might have noticed news items over the last week about an unfolding row between now temporary allies Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific and Emirates, one of the biggest carriers in the world.

The quarrel has to do with seats between the key Manila-to-Dubai market—a lucrative route given the importance of the Middle East when it comes to ferrying Filipino workers.

This specifically covers one of three Manila-Dubai daily flights that both local players said Emirates should stop using since an Emirates-PAL codeshare deal was scrapped months ago.

What irks these carriers the most is that the Philippine government is still allowing Emirates the use of these flights as two 30-day extensions have now been given, the latest of which ends Dec. 26, ruling out a chunk of that Christmas traffic for PAL or Cebu Pacific.

Adding insult to injury is the alleged sale by Emirates of those seats beyond Dec. 26, which could be illegal. Requests for a cease-and-desist order on the sale of those seats have since been sought against Emirates.

Naturally, in cases where a situation becomes hard to explain, we are now hearing speculation that Emirate’s “confident” attitude is because of its relationship with someone with ties to people at the very top.

A source even cited the one-time Manila-Dubai flight of an Emirates Airbus A380 last Oct. 7, a late night event but one that President Aquino found time to attend.

Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla said a decision should be out by Dec. 11. Needless to say, an unfavorable CAB decision for domestic carriers could trigger some turbulent skies ahead.—Miguel R. Camus

Airline’s sad Christmas

It could very well be a sad holiday season for the employees of this particular airline, which continues to lose money (or more accurately, is losing even more money nowadays).

Biz Buzz has learned that the management of this airline—which is a budget-oriented sister unit of a larger carrier—told its employees some weeks ago that they should not expect a Christmas bonus this year, no thanks to the red ink that still hounds the firm.

Of course, all employees would still receive the mandatory 13th-month pay, but the traditional 14th-month bonus (a policy that held until last year as previous managers wanted everyone to be happy), will no longer apply to all. Only the employees of the parent firm would get the extra month’s pay, leading some insiders to lament that other staffers have reverted to their second-class citizen status.

But more alarmingly—especially for the loyalist clients of the airline—is that the groups’ overall on-time performance has dropped precipitously over the last couple of months.

From an average on-time performance of 86 percent, this carrier’s aircraft now leave terminal gates on time at an abysmal rate of 35 percent. That’s a huge drop, by any measure, and no one seems to know why?

Is it because of a reorganization, low staff morale or perhaps bigger internal problems? Your guess is as good as ours.—Daxim L. Lucas

E-mail us at bizbuzz@inquirer.com.ph. Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

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TAGS: airlines, Biz Buzz, Cebu Pacific, Emirates, Manila Bay reclamation, Philippine Airlines, telcos, Telecommunications, Wenceslao group
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