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Biz Buzz: Money woes at Stradcom

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Biz Buzz: Money woes at Stradcom

READERS who need to renew their driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations might have to double time on their efforts.

Word on the street is that Stradcom Corp.—the private company that runs the computers of the Land Transportation Office—may be forced to cease operations soon after failing to receive payments from the government for the services it has been rendering for the last six months.

The likely result of such a service stoppage? Chaos.

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According to our sources, Stradcom, led by businessman Cesar Quiambao, has been operating on a shoestring budget in recent weeks since it has yet to see a single centavo of the P1.17 billion that the government owes it.

Payments were halted late last year after a takeover attempt was made on the firm’s facilities by a group led by Quiambao’s former business partner—a controversy that eventually led to the suspension of LTO chief Virginia Torres recently.

Despite Torres’ absence, however, numerous roadblocks still exist to the company being paid for its services, not least of which was an alleged veto for the payment from a very, very, very (we cannot stress it enough) high-ranking Palace official.

Stradcom’s people—long used to being portrayed as “FG’s friends” (which they dispute)—are just about ready to throw in the towel and walk away from their present “charity work” arrangement with the LTO and the DoTC.

One problem though: Is the government prepared for the chaos that will ensue once Stradcom runs out of cash and charity?—Daxim L. Lucas

Fickle MSCI

LAST week was a roller-coaster ride for port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. at the stock market, no thanks to a conflicting advisory from Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) on its inclusion in its influential global standard indices.

On May 16, MSCI announced from Geneva that, as part of its semi-annual index review, ICTSI would be included in its global standard indices, the only “addition” from the Philippines. The index recomposition would have taken effect on June 1. ICTSI soared to a 52-week high of P56.70 a share after the “good” news from MSCI. But lo and behold: MSCI issued the very next day an advisory that ICTSI would not be included after all, dragging down ICTSI prices below the P50-a-share mark and angering a lot of investors who had realigned their portfolios based on the earlier advisory.

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Many fund managers and stock dealers felt they were taken for an unjolly ride. MSCI’s withdrawal of ICTSI had something to do with foreign equity ownership limit, but Philippine investors were aghast that the change of heart happened overnight. Was it an error on the part of MSCI? Why was its inclusion announced in the first place only to be promptly withdrawn? Some fund managers even talked about the possibility of filing a lawsuit. As of press time, MSCI has not explained the overnight brouhaha.—Doris C. Dumlao

More on “Broker B”

IN OUR previous edition, we cited a complaint filed against this stockbroker, “Broker B,” who was accused of having bought additional shares of the Philippine Stock Exchange even after a “freeze” order issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission until after the PSE would have complied with the controversial 20-percent single industry ownership limit prescribed by the Securities Regulation Code.

Top PSE officials attested that “Broker B,” who won a seat in the 15-member PSE board during the recent polls, had not used those additional shares to influence the results of the elections. “Broker B” told no less than new PSE chairman Jose Pardo that he had not used those shares to get himself elected.

But those who filed the complaint against “Broker B” at the SEC insisted that even if he did not use the shares, the intention was questionable and the act of buying those new shares was a serious violation of the freeze order. It was also pointed out that the rules of the PSE’s nominations and elections committee states that candidates must not have had any SRC violation. So it continues.—Doris C. Dumlao

Reviving Coral Reef

THE LONG dormant 35-hectare Coral Reef resort on Mactan Island may soon get a new lease on life as an upscale residential-resort development as Kapitan Lucio Tan’s Eton Properties is keen on taking over the property that was foreclosed by an affiliate bank.

It had taken the group quite some time to revive the property due to legal encumbrances involved in the foreclosure proceedings. But now that legal matters have been settled, Eton plans to buy the property and give neighboring Shangri-La and the Hilton stiff competition.—Doris C. Dumlao

What sells where

SHOPWISE, the country’s first hypermarket, is among the first supermarket operations in the country to track consumer habits and buying preferences.

According to Shopwise vice president for marketing Frances Yu, the best-selling items at their Makati branch was, at one point, rubber slippers, while in Antipolo it was the Shopwise ensaymada which sells for less than P60 for half a dozen. At its Alabang branch it was Safeguard soap, but for its Manila branch its top seller was … guess what? … Ph Care feminine wash. (We could only guess that this is due to the Manila branch’s proximity to the nightclubs and girlie bars of Ermita.)

Meanwhile, during the launch of the supermarket chain’s partnership with Globe Telecom, Shopwise president Donnie Tantoco’s face was filled with joy as he had just flown in from the Vatican where he attended the beatification of Pope John Paul II with his “lolo,” 90-year old Rustan’s founder Bienvenido Tantoco.

The younger Tantoco told the audience that the aura of the very significant event was still with him so people were free to hug him and share the good vibes.

He also related how he took care of his grandfather during the beatification rites by shielding him from the sun with a tiny newspaper until a big Italian offered him an umbrella. Touching.—Margie Quimpo-Espino

Perks of power

NOT a few residents of the posh Ayala Alabang Village became upset after a 7:30 p.m. Sunday Mass recently after a black SUV inexplicably blocked the driveway of the St. James Parish church and held up the queue for everyone.

According to people who witnessed the event, the SUV with a “7” plate number (denoting that it was owned by a senator of the Republic) stood in the middle of the driveway for four minutes, unmindful of the growing queue of vehicles waiting to pick up parishioners, including several old and infirm ones.

And who owned the SUV? Lo and behold, it was no other than Sen. Bong Revilla, who was standing right in the middle of the driveway, waiting for his wife, Lani, to emerge from the church (never mind the icy stares he was getting from the other well-heeled church goers).

This probably means they won’t be voting for him in the next elections. Not that they ever did.—Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: Bong Revilla, Coral Reef resort, Government, ICTSI, Markets & Exchanges, MSCI, politics, Shopwise, Stradcom
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