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Biz buzz: Rearguard action at logistics firm

business / Columnists
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Biz buzz: Rearguard action at logistics firm

/ 01:17 AM December 28, 2016

Remember Mr. T who is trying to fend off the entry of Mr. U into the logistics firm that the former runs?

Well, Mr. T managed to convince a number of banks to lend him a few hundred million pesos to help the company.

Biz Buzz heard that the loan consortium was led by Bank S which managed to convince Bank C, Bank D, Bank P and Bank SC to join in. Unfortunately, Bank C went around asking “people in the know” about potential reputational risks … and ended up backing out of the lending consortium. And because Bank C backed out, another potential lender, Bank B (closely related to Bank C) also decided to stay away.

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We could only imagine that Bank C checked with Mr. T’s previous employers—Conglomerate A and Businessman V —and found that both had reservations about him. (In fact, Conglomerate A practically denies that Mr. T used to work for them and all the latter’s employment records have vanished, we’re told.)

Meanwhile, even without Mr. U as a director of the logistics firm, its board is already split down the middle where loyalty is concerned, it seems. The board chair who represents independent investors has been trying to keep the company functioning by trying to win over top officials, while Mr. T has been trying to woo them with his own enticements.

It’s a pity, really, as the logistics firm is one of the more recognizable names in the industry and has excellent potential for growth … in the right hands, of course. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

NaiaEx … finally

It was meant to be a showcase for the rest of the world about the progress the Philippines was making during the last six years. In fact, the previous administration wanted world leaders who came to town during last year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to see just how far the country had gone in terms of improving its transportation infrastructure.

Well, in a way the Naia Expressway revealed exactly that —in a negative light—as the previous administration’s inability to promptly deliver on right-of-way commitments to project proponent San Miguel Corp. delayed the completion of the elevated tollway by more than a year.

The good news, however, is that the 11.6-kilometer toll road was finally opened last week, connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s terminals 1, 2 and 3 and Pagcor Entertainment City in the reclamation area on the edge of Manila Bay.

More importantly, the road is also connected to the Skyway system, and this link is already “partially open” (meaning a couple of lanes are now in operation pending the completion of finishing touches), according to San Miguel.

Apart from reducing travel time of travelers heading to the airport terminals—and reducing the anxiety traffic-induced aggravation of those arriving in Manila from overseas—NaiaEx will also be a boon for motorists heading to and from Parañaque City who previously had to endure hellish vehicular traffic congestion on a daily basis.

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And to encourage motorists to use NaiaEx, San Miguel president  Ramon Ang ordered his  people not to charge toll for its first month of operations, just like the section of the road that opened a couple of months ago.

“Motorists coming from or going to the Naia Terminal 3 from Macapagal Avenue, Naia Terminals 1 and 2, or the partially-opened connection to the Skyway, will not be charged any toll,” he said. “The same is true for motorists who are just passing through the new section. Basically, if you go through the new toll plaza in front of Naia 3, your toll is free.”

“With the arrival of many balikbayans and tourists this holiday season, along with the expected increase in vehicular traffic at around this time, we’re hoping that opening this section for free will provide our motorists even more convenience and a reason to smile,” he said.

Expect the NaiaEx system to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2017 once the connection to the Skyway system is completed. Now that’s good news for the new year. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Still pushing

All-Asia Resources and Reclamation Corp. continues to make a strong push for its massive Sangley, Cavite reclamation proposal, driving hard on its potential to ease Metro Manila’s traffic nightmare.

The consortium, backed by the Tieng and Sy groups, said the plan to reclaim some 2,500 hectares of land to be developed into a new international airport, seaport and industrial zone would remove 8,000 trucks and 40,000 cars from Metro Manila per day.

The cost of the project was estimated at P1.3 trillion, and its proponents claimed they were seeking no sovereign guarantees or subsidies.

That investment, though, seem like a bargain, considering that productivity losses from congestion run at over P860 billion annually, when considering 2012 figures from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The consortium has also set a very aggressive construction schedule, assuming the government gave its approval, at four years.

These announcements come as the Duterte administration is (hopefully) expected to decide next year on a comprehensive airport policy for Luzon, and perhaps the rest of the country.

Thus far, it appears that All-Asia Resources and Reclamation has the ear of the President and company officials are very optimistic this project would prevail.

But we hear it still needs to hurdle more steps, including the approval from the National Economic and Development Authority. Prevailing wisdom, especially in these uncertain times, also dictates that no celebration is warranted until a contract is sealed and the ink is dry.

Whatever the outcome, 2017 is turning out to be an exciting time for the future of the country’s transportation sector. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

Coffee merger

Despite mostly hot weather in this tropical country, big international gourmet coffee chains have mushroomed locally. Young people find them a cool place to hangout while even the not-so-young now appreciate them.

And more of them are coming in, brought in by conglomerates with financial muscle which are betting on rising consumer affluence. That means competition is getting tougher and the pressure to scale up heightens among retailers.

Does that mean there’s room for consolidation in the coffee shop business among the mature players? A possible merger deal is brewing between these two homegrown gourmet coffee chains. One is affiliated with a listed company while the other is an initial public offering candidate

But since both brands have gained following over the decades—both having preceded the Starbucks craze—it remains to be seen whether both brands will be kept once the network is unified. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

Old cards still valid

In line with the global move toward more secure payment systems—and the growing vulnerability of existing magnetic stripe-based ATM, debit and credit cards, regulators have ordered all card-issuing banks and financial institutions in the Philippines to shift to the new EMV standard starting Jan. 1, 2017.

“EMV” stands for “Europay MasterCard and Visa” which are the three credit card firms which joined forces to create the new technical standard, which uses a more secure integrated circuit chip embedded in the card instead of the easily cloned magnetic stripe in circulation today. (One benefit is the elimination of the need for inputting one’s PIN numbers for transactions worth below a certain threshold. Just tap the card on a terminal and the RFID-enabled chip does all the work.)

Some banks (those which have not converted yet) have announced that they will start issuing EMV cards to replace their current ATM, debit and credit cards starting the first day of work in 2017 (that being Tuesday, Jan. 2), but it seems it will be logistically impossible to replace millions of plastic cards in circulation in the country immediately. What’s a cardholder to do?

Nothing to worry about, apparently. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has issued a new directive to banks that existing non-EMV cards should still be honored while the local financial system shifts to the new standard.

“All BSP-supervised financial institutions should ensure that consumers are not disenfranchised while the transition to EMV technology is ongoing,” BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said in a memorandum to banks. “All [banks] should likewise strengthen EMV-related consumer awareness efforts, particularly to allay fears of the consumers that their magnetic stripe cards are no longer usable come Jan. 1, 2017.”

In any case, the new technical standard will hopefully result in a sharp reduction in fraud being committed through cloning ATM, debit and credit cards which have become all too common of late, not only in the Philippines but also overseas. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

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