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Biz Buzz: A fast one on AUB?

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Biz Buzz: A fast one on AUB?

/ 05:45 AM August 02, 2017

A fast one on AUB?

Banks often get too little sympathy from the public, no thanks to the poor service that some financial institutions are notorious for. But every now and then, it’s the bank client who manages to give a bank some serious headaches.

This seems to be the case involving Asia United Bank (AUB), which took control of troubled Asiatrust Bank a few years ago. Having taken over the assets and the liabilities of the struggling bank, AUB did what any company worth its salt did—collect all collectibles and pay all payables.

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One such client was a certain Wilfredo Lua who had a $27,000 deposit with the defunct Asiatrust. Interestingly, Lua already had some issues with Asiatrust even before AUB’s takeover, having successfully sued the old bank for failing to return his passbook to him.

Soon after that, he sought to close his dollar account and AUB, the successor in interest of Asiatrust, offered him $35,000, representing his principal deposit plus interest earned.

Other clients would have happily taken the deal. But not Lua, who asked that he be paid an interest of 12 percent a year on his deposits. This meant a payout of $72,000 on a deposit which, AUB said, was not even supposed to bear interest in the first place.

Naturally, AUB refused to give Lua more than he was entitled to by law.
But emboldened by an earlier court decision favoring his case, Lua wrote to the Philippine Stock Exchange, whose president and CEO Ramon Monzon immediately informed parties that were not privy to the case and would not in any way gain from it.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Having won his claim for $72,000 from his original deposit of $27,000, Lua wants more. According to AUB sources, the depositor now wants $1 million, supposedly representing compounded interest earnings from the date he opened the account.
As of last week, the case was still being heard in court.

One has to wonder if the case would have taken a different course if the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had handled it, since bank regulators fully understand the country’s banking laws.

The BSP knows what a non-interest bearing account is, while other parties may not.
Tired of being on the defensive, a source told Biz Buzz that AUB is now contemplating filing a countersuit against the client, his genuine grievance against the old Asiatrust notwithstanding. If it comes to that, AUB had better hope its luck with the courts changes. Otherwise… ouch. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Spidey and PAL

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For people with sharp eyes who have seen the latest Spiderman movie, you may have seen the billboard of flag carrier Philippine Airlines in New York’s Queens borough captured by the camera as Spidey goes swinging across the urban jungle. This particular scene was also in the movie’s trailer.

Some friends alerted PAL president Jaime Bautista about the “cameo” appearance of PAL’s billboard. He, of course, welcomed the free advertising. This is clearly a free mileage for the Philippine carrier.

As a coincidence, it has been reported that Peter Parker aka Spidey’s sidekick in this edition is a young Fil-Am actor named Jacob Batalon.

As PAL implements a refleeting program costing more than $2 billion, the flag carrier is looking to fly to more cities in the US and other international destinations. PAL is looking to fly to Chicago and Seattle. After returning to Europe four years ago with its nonstop Manila-London flights, PAL is also looking at new destinations in Europe, such as Rome, Paris and Frankfurt.

With the delivery of new regional commuter aircraft Q400 from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace, PAL is also set to boost its domestic capacity by 20 percent. New destinations—such as Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Busuanga and Basco)—will be offered out of Cebu and/or Clark airports.

PAL also aims to obtain 4-star status from UK-based airline and airport rating agency Skytrax by the end of this year and 5-star status in four years’ time, joining the likes of Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Asiana Airlines, Hainan Airlines, ANA, Garuda Indonesia, EVA Air and Etihad Airways. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

The man with a plan

It’s been universally acknowledged that the new owners of 2GO Group Inc.— the SM Group and businessman Dennis Uy—did the absolute right thing in restating the company’s financials.

The restatement turned controversial because of the way it pit the judgment and estimates (accounting grey areas to the rest of us) of external auditors SGV & Co. and KPMG against each other.

It revealed significant, albeit noncash and mainly nonrecurring items, that showed inflated profits for 2GO going back to 2015. The profit figures have since been adjusted lower.

The restatement was a decision that likely weighed heavier on Uy, whose Chelsea Logistics Holdings, owner of 28 percent of 2GO, was going public. But ask Uy and he would say there simply was no other choice.

“Imagine if we announced it after (the IPO)? It would have been really bad. That’s misrepresentation, bad faith.”

The decision clipped the premium Chelsea aimed for, although the lower price also meant it was hard to keep up with investors’ demand. Uy said it was OK, since credibility mattered more.

This is probably true for Chelsea and the longer-term plans for his growing business empire, which spans petroleum, logistics, and property development, housed under Uy’s flagship Udenna Corp.

Recent acquisitions include Enderun Colleges and Petronas Energy Philippines Inc.

In fact, it seems Uy, who happens to count President Duterte among his friends, seems willing to enter any business as long as there’s both the opportunity and money to be made.

The only area he avoids is what he calls “sad” businesses, which covers enterprises like funeral homes, cemeteries and even hospitals.

“We have other avenues to make money which can also be happier experiences,” he said. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

Changing of the guard

One of the last snippets that the audience caught in the farewell video for now-former Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC) president and CEO Yoshiaki Kato is a clip of him in a bright orange neon jacket, singing karaoke in a performance that could only be described as slightly tipsy but wholly inspired.

The light moment, which drew cheers from the public, offers a stark contrast from what is understandably a stressful job of heading one of the leading automobile companies in the country. But alas, as of Friday last week, Mitsubishi announced Kato’s departure from the top post after more than two years of heading the country’s second-largest car company.

Sad as the news may be, there is a lot to be celebrated in his rather short-lived term, most notable of which is MMPC’s participation in the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy or CARS program, which aims to make the country an automobile manufacturing hub.

This prompted an official of the Board of Investments to offer his praises for Kato’s leadership, although this may be taken differently by Mitsubishi’s top rival in the Philippine market.

During the turnover ceremony last week, the BOI official said he was “impressed” by Mitsubishi’s commitment to the CARS program.

So far, it is the only company that has unveiled to the public a glimpse of the first locally produced Mirage units, having done so earlier this year for the Mirage G4 and again last week for the Mirage Hatchback.

“This is one particular instance wherein the No. 2 works harder,” he said in a roomful of audience last week.

Kato was replaced by Mutsuhiro Oshikiri who, prior to this, was CEO of Mitsubishi in Australia since 2012. Sure enough, Oshikiri has big shoes to fill and it won’t always be a joyride. —ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL

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