INQUIRER.NET

Biz Buzz: Betting big on logistics

Word on the street is that Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy is set to consolidate his hold over logistics firm 2GO “in the next few weeks” after a bruising boardroom battle with its “outgoing” (if the scuttlebutt is accurate) chief Sulficio Tagud.

That outcome, of course, was never in doubt, but there is a new element in play that may make the logistics and shipping business more interesting and more competitive in the coming months.

Several sources told Biz Buzz that Uy would have a secret partner in taking 2GO’s business model to a new level.

And what is this business model? If all goes according to plan, 2GO will serve as the “last mile” distribution system for the country’s largest shopping and retail network owned by no less than the SM group.

That’s right. The logistics industry is abuzz with the murmurings that the SM group will invest in 2GO, possibly by buying out one of the funds that owns a substantial stake in the firm (the China Asean Fund is everyone’s bet).

If that happens, SM will practically be an unstoppable force in the retail scene. Never mind 2GO’s decades-old ships which cost a fortune to run and maintain. What’s more important for SM is its logistics network and expertise.

Said one industry insider: “Imagine being able to shop any SM product online—or any product available from any retailer in an SM mall—and paying for it online, and having it delivered to your doorstep by a 2GO courier.”

Now that’s an impressive plan for total retail industry domination. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Betting big on shipping

The transportation industry tends to be resistant to any major change, and it’s no different in the modernization of the maritime sector.

So it’s an interesting bet for businessman Arben Santos, who made a fortune in shipping, to enter the roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) sector. It’s an often overlooked but nonetheless crucial transport link that serves a great deal of people, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao areas.

Santos, CEO of the Southwest Maritime Group, said they were not entering in a small way, revealing on Friday their first Ro-Ro vessel, an $11-million Japanese-made ship called M/V SWM Stella Del Mar.

Yes, boats get christened all the time, but what makes the venture unusual is the fact that it’s a brand-new ship, different from the usual 20-year-old vessels acquired by domestic operators for Ro-Ro trips. The cost is a relative bargain at $2.5 million.

Stellar Del Mar, which can carry 977 people and 21 trucks, hopes to make its operational debut next month, plying the Southern Leyte to Surigao route, while matching the price of competitors.

Santos, who is undertaking the business through Southwest Ferries Inc., told Biz Buzz that at 69 years old, he was unlikely to see the fruits of this business.

So why enter at all? Apparently, he wanted to prove a point.

The transportation department early on announced a plan to phase out vessels above 35 years of age, which has no doubt met heavy resistance.

Santos, an advocate of this plan, which would bolster safety and even transport efficiency, said he wanted to show operators that one can make new investments, and make a profit at the same time. In short, he’s putting his money where his mouth is.

There appears plenty of support for operators in this segment. In Santos’ case, he was able to enlist the help of tycoon Alfredo Yao, whose Philippine Business Bank helped finance the vessel.

So don’t be surprised if you see Yao’s Zesto branding quite conspicuous inside the vessel. Santos shared it was a gesture of thanks to his friend.

What’s next for newcomer Southwest Ferries? We heard they would make additional investments for new boats if it’s smooth sailing for the business.

“Wish me good luck,” Santos quipped. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

Women power

Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), the oldest foreign bank in the country, recently staged the play “The Vagina Monologues” to benefit two women-oriented organizations: Lila Filipina (an organization of Filipino comfort women, victims and survivors of rape during the World War II) and One Billion Rising (a movement to end violence against women).  This was to mark International Women’s Month this March.

But more than just raising funds, SCB employees—including no less than the chief executive officer and head of global banking for the Philippines Lynette Ortiz—performed the monologues alongside stage actresses and women’s rights advocates Monique Wilson and Thea Tadiar last March 10.

Ortiz is Stanchart’s first Filipino CEO for the Philippines and the first female CEO in this country, for that matter.

“This is the third time Standard Chartered Bank has staged The Vagina Monologues in recent years. First in London, then Singapore and this year we brought the play to Manila. The show was a demonstration of female power at its best!” Ortiz said.

“We are truly proud of the cast for courageously putting themselves out there for our cause and for each other, reading aloud some of the most thought-provoking and controversial issues that beset women.  The monologues tackled a range of issues:  From women’s oppression to objectification to owning one’s femaleness.  We shattered yet another glass ceiling as we celebrated women empowerment.”

Written by Eve Ensler, the play was based on  interviews with different women on feminine experiences, celebrates women empowerment and also tackles issues confronting women across the world.  The play seeks to give voice to different stories unique to women —childbirth, individuality, sexuality, oppression, violence.

SCB vowed to continue creating an inclusive environment that’s free from bias and where everyone can realize full potential. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

Stock tips for sale

For those asking whether stock brokers can tell “tips” as some parties pitch via social media, this is what Securities and Exchange Commission Commission (SEC) Ephryo Luis Amatong has to say: “Generally, brokerages can provide research reports with buy, sell or hold recommendations, but the same entities cannot provide or sell inside information or something false or misleading or something in support of a price manipulation scheme (like pump and dump).

This is amid reports that some parties are selling packages which can be worth as much as P180,000 per year (in exchange for 10 stock recommendations per month and weekly closed-door sessions).  First and foremost, Amatong said prospective investors should ascertain whether the parties selling such tips were linked to registered brokers.

Suffice to say, the SEC will initiate an investigation into such tip-selling activities. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

The Lopez group says …

Lopez family-owned First Balfour is contesting University of the Philippines geology professor Carlos Arcilla’s assertions against Environment Secretary-designate Gina Lopez during her stalled confirmation hearings at the Senate recently.

The UP professor testified against Lopez during the hearing, pointing out that even the Lopez family had a firm that was engaged in mining aggregates, and in a watershed, no less.

But according to the Aquino administration’s former Communications Secretary—and now First Philippine Holdings vice president—Ramon “Ricky” Carandang, the company in question, First Balfour, is not a mining company, but a construction company.

“First Balfour is not mining aggregates in Loboc (Batangas),” he said. “Balfour has no operations anywhere near Loboc. First Balfour is not operating in any watershed.”

“The confusion appears to stem from the fact that First Balfour applied last year for a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to operate an aggregates quarry in Taysan, Batangas,” he explained. “That permit has not been granted and so we have not been able to commence any kind of operation there. We’ve not applied for a mineral production sharing agreement because all we need is a quarrying permit.” —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Outbrain