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Biz Buzz: Burying the hatchet

/ 05:42 AM August 04, 2017

It was a long time coming, but when it finally happened, it happened in a grand way.

Almost two decades of enmity were finally set aside last week when businessman Roberto Ongpin hosted a testimonial dinner for his former boss and mentor Washington SyCip — the grand old man of Philippine business — after the two men chose to walk different paths in the late 1990s.

Few people know about it, but Ongpin (“Bobby” to his friends and “RVO” to his associates and employees) actually had a major falling out with SyCip (“Wash” to his friends and admirers) since 1999.

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You see, Ongpin — upon helping build what is now the Tagaytay Highlands Golf and Country Club in the early 1990s — brought in senior personalities like former Prime Minister Cesar Virata and SyCip to add gravitas to the board of the popular weekend destination’s owner, Belle Corp.

But a few years later, Ongpin was ousted in a boardroom coup, and things were never the same between the two.

Fast forward to 2017 and the hurts and slights seem to have been forgotten with Ongpin reaching across the divide to invite SyCip to a testimonial dinner in the latter’s honor.

“I owe Wash a lot,” Ongpin told Biz Buzz after the star studded dinner held last week in Makati City, explaining that the time had come to let bygones be bygones. After all, SyCip is now 96 and Ongpin is 81.

“I learned a lot from him and he gave me my first break,” Ongpin added, explaining that SyCip, then the chair of the storied SyCip, Gorres & Velayo audit firm, took a big gamble on Ongpin when he made the future trade minister its youngest managing partner.

Well, at last week’s dinner party, it was as if Ongpin wanted to show his appreciation to his former boss and mentor by inviting the creme de la creme of the country’s business, political and academic elite.

Seen at the dinner were former President Joseph Estrada and Senators Sonny Angara, Chiz Escudero, Juan Ponce Enrile and Frank Drilon, and former Senator Ed Angara. Strange bedfellows eh? Of course, Makati Major Abby Binay-Campos was there, as was Rep. Martin Romualdez and five former finance secretaries: Cesar Purisima, Gary Teves, Ramon del Rosario Jr., Titoy Pardo and Virata.

The who’s who of the diplomatic corps? Present, led by Washington’s ambassador to Manila Sung Kim, and Manila’s ambassador to Washington Babe Romualdez.

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Leaders of the academe? How about Ateneo de Manila University president Jet Villarin S.J., De La Salle’s Bro Armin Luistro and Asian Institute of Management president Kang Jikyeong?

Business tycoons? More than we have space for in this column. Suffice it to say that the biggest and brightest were present, including SM group’s Tessie Sy-Coson, San Miguel president Ramon Ang, Lucio Tan, Helen Yuchengco-Dee, Marixi Rufino-Prieto, Erramon Aboitiz, Injap Sia, Alfred Ty, Ben Chan, Michael Tan and Joselito Campos Jr., to name a few.

The bankers and auditors were there, too, led by BDO Unibank president Neston, JP Morgan’s Philippine chair Roberto “Bobbit” Panlilio, and auditor/business consultant/dealmaker Roman Felipe “Manny” Reyes.

Total VIP headcount? About 110, spread out over 12 large diner tables.

But there was one detail that caught the eye of many guests. At the presidential table, SyCip was flanked on one side by Ongpin, and on the other by Ramon Ang. And no words were spoken about any disagreements over past business issues. Another rapprochement in the making? Abangan. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

The purge

As the Philippine Stock Exchange works to complete its takeover of capital market infrastructure provider Philippine Dealing System (PDS) Holdings Group, there’s some household cleaning up it has to do first.

In the words of PSE president Ramon Monzon, the biggest challenge to getting the PDS deal done is not so much negotiating with the remaining sellers (even the Singapore Exchange has agreed in principle) but getting the green light from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). And such approval is dependent on whether the PSE can reduce stock brokers’ cumulative ownership to 20 percent, the cap prescribed by the securities law.

It has been suggested that the shares of dormant stock brokers be excluded from the computation of shares counted as held by stockholders. The SEC, by itself, is mandated to close any company that hasn’t operated for more than five years under the corporate code but it wants to give these dormant brokers due process.

Within the stock brokerage industry, there are trading seats which have not been used in the last 15 to 20 years.

As such, the PSE has written to these dormant brokers—there are 52 of them out of 184 trading participants—requiring them to signify whether they still intend to rekindle their stock brokerage operations or not. If they don’t intend to resume operations, their shares will no longer be counted as brokers’ shares. Out of 52 dormant brokers, 14 still own shares in PSE and if their shares will be excluded from the computation, the cumulative shares of the stock brokerage industry will go down to 23-24 percent.

But even those dormant brokers which no longer own shares in PSE will still have to face an ultimatum. If they don’t intend to resume operations, the bourse intends to declare their trading seat vacant. As such, these seats can revert to PSE, which can offer them to other interested parties.

For those which intend to resume stock brokerage operations, they will be given three more months to raise the P100 million capital required for new brokers. If they are able to raise such amount, they will be given another six months to prepare for operations.

Meanwhile, the PSE will embark on a share-sale within this year to further dilute brokers’ ownership. It has already obtained approval from the board to sell 11.5 million new common shares, which is worth P2.8 billion based on current prices and more than enough to pay for its PDS acquisition.

The objective of the share-sale is not to raise fresh money but to put in place a program to dilute brokers’ ownership of the PSE to 20 percent. The brokers, of course, may be compelled to waive their preemptive rights for the stock offering to meet such objective of diversifying ownership. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

Shaking up the art scene

Salcedo Auctions is shaking up the Philippine fine art and collectibles auction scene again—no surprise really, being the country’s industry pioneer. Their annual September auction weekend, The Well Appointed Life, has a new home and partner in the grand dame of Makati five-star hotels, The Peninsula Manila—taking what is already a most dignified event, four years running, into even more rarefied territory.

A formal call for consignments has yet to be released, and yet art lovers and collectors, learning through the grapevine of the world-class luxury partnership, have already started sending over impressive art pieces to Salcedo by masters such as Fernando Amorsolo, Vicente Manansala, Lao Lianben, Jose Joya, BenCab, Lee Aguinaldo, and Arturo Luz, as well as rare and highly sought after contemporary works by Annie Cabigting, and Ronald Ventura, to name a few. The highlight piece thus far? Only the biggest HR Ocampo canvas painting in private hands—30 feet long to be exact. Watch the corporate bigwigs and top collectors make space in their expansive homes or offices and vie to own this masterpiece Sept. 23 “Important Philippine Art” auction at the Rigodon Ballroom.

Historic antique furniture, statement jewelry and rare automobiles will also be offered alongside Salcedo’s stunning collection of timepieces with brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, Patek Philippe, Rolex, IWC and more filling the lineup.

Topping the list is an incredibly sought-after Rolex Daytona Paul Newman Ref. 6263 in stainless steel with a ‘Panda’ dial in original condition. The holy grail of Daytonas, which top watch aficionados will no doubt be dreaming about and salivating over, expect this to be the first timepiece to hit the P10 million mark at the Sunday, Sept. 24 Fine Jewelry & Timepieces auction. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

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TAGS: Biz Buzz, Roberto Ongpin, SyCip
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