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Biz Buzz: Up in arms

/ 01:31 AM October 09, 2015

THEY made their case before, but apparently, their pleas fell on deaf ears.

So the country’s largest business organizations have once more banded together to come up with a common stand opposing a Department of Finance- and Securities and Exchange Commission-backed proposal to limit the terms of office of board directors of the country’s publicly listed corporations.

Recall, of course, that the DOF earlier this year put forward an order prescribing “fit and proper” rules for company directors.

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In particular, the DOF wanted to impose limits on how long independent directors can serve on company boards as well as cap the age of these serving directors at 80 (along with a host of other limitations like prohibitions on the appointment of directors related to shareholders up to the 4th degree)—basically, imposing a host of rules that make life more difficult for public corporations.

Back in June, the business community pushed back and sent Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima a jointly signed manifesto and, for a while, the issue died down. But the DOF leadership isn’t one to take things sitting down, apparently, and has launched a fresh initiative to reimpose these prohibitions.

Thus, the business community—led by the likes of the Bankers Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and Employers Confederation of the Philippines—have once more signed a joint petition to oppose the move. But this time, instead of sending the letter to Secretary Purisima, they sent their plea to SEC chair Teresita Herbosa, hoping against hope (and experience) that she would listen to them.

The diplomatically worded letter (which had a calmer tone than what many of the businessmen could project in person) reiterated the business community’s belief that “in the spirit of free enterprise in which companies conduct business in a free market,  corporate governance cannot be imposed or legislated, but is best left to the discretion of corporations on how corporate governance can be practiced.”

Of course, since the SEC technically falls under the supervisory ambit of the DOF, the letter is ultimately meant for the reading pleasure of Secretary Purisima.

One businessman Biz Buzz spoke to isn’t too hopeful about their latest effort to keep government interference at bay. He said: “Ultimately, SEC reports to DOF. But if you ask Secretary Purisima, he’ll say it’s an SEC matter.”

Good luck trying to figure that out.  Daxim L. Lucas

 

SM’s 53rd mall

“TATANG” Henry Sy’s shopping mall empire has continued to expand its footprint, set up shop in new frontiers and build more hubs in fast-growing areas to bring its iconic SM brand closer to the country’s 100-million population. Today, SM Prime Holdings (SMPH) adds the 53rd shopping mall to its commercial portfolio with the opening of SM City Cabanatuan. This marks SM’s second mall in Nueva Ecija.

The newest SM mall—along Maharlika Highway in Cabanatuan City, deemed as the gateway to Northern Luzon—has 154,020 square meters (sqm) of gross floor area (GFA).  This brings SMPH’s total retail space to 6.76 million square meters. By the end of this year, Southeast Asia’s leading property developer will have a total of 55 operating malls in the Philippines and six in China with a combined GFA of about 8.27 million sqms.

“The opening of SM City Cabanatuan is SM Prime’s commitment to be part of the growth of the province. The opening of new malls is timely given the expected higher growth in overall consumption in the fourth quarter,” SMPH president Hans Sy said.

By the end of 2015, SM Prime is expected to open SM Center Sangandaan in Caloocan, and SM Seaside City Cebu.

The company is also set to expand SM City Lipa in Batangas and SM City Iloilo this year. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Online libel test case         

THE country’s newly minted Cybercrime Law may soon be tested. Word on the street is that a mass housing developer is contemplating filing online libel charges against those behind what it calls “vicious Internet and social media attacks” on its projects.

While the developer—Pro-Friends—has yet to file what could be an important precedent-setting case against those using Internet platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to disparage it, the firm has already set the ball in motion.

Pro-Friends, in fact, won round one of its effort to combat a “syndicated effort” to destroy its reputation when the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City issued a warrant for the arrest of several persons for grave slander and oral defamation.

Interestingly, one Biz Buzz source pointed out that there’s a force associated with the family of a realtor-politician behind the concerted attacks on Pro-Friends, so business rivalry could be the root of this issue.

If this is true, to whom does the hidden hand behind the defamatory campaign against Pro-Friends belong?

In fact, what Pro-Friends calls a “demolition job” against it has been going on for sometime now. The property firm believes it isn’t a spontaneous outpouring of protest by disgruntled clients, but rather a “well-funded and orchestrated by unseen hands who want to run the property development company to the ground so they can have a monopoly of the market.”

“The black propaganda campaign has been stretched by hiring ‘professional protesters’ to mount lightning mass actions complete with placards carrying libelous slogans against Pro-Friends,” said one source familiar with the reality firm’s side of the issue.

If rumors are to be believed, this developer politician has even used his political power to initiate investigations in both houses of Congress to pressure Pro-Friends, supposedly in a bid to cripple its marketing program—all while the politician’s firm pirated key marketing people of the beleaguered real estate firm to work in his own.

Luckily for Pro-Friends, it was thrown a lifeline and a vote of confidence by GT Capital through a capital infusion of P7.24 billion, with the announced interest to acquire a controlling 51-percent stake in three years.  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).

TAGS: Business, Cesar Purisima, economy, News, Securities and Exchange Commission
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