Uniwide: Falling behind the curve
A once promising company, one that evokes feelings of nostalgia, is drawing near its end.
In a memorandum from the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) last Tuesday, all trading participants were informed of its decision to delist and remove from its official registry the shares of the Gow family’s real estate company, Uniwide Holdings Inc. (trading symbol, UW). The delisting of the shares of the company will formally take effect on October 26, 2017.
The decision stemmed from Uniwide’s alleged failure to comply with the timely submission and disclosure of “structured reportorial requirements” as prescribed in the bourse’s listing rules.
In particular, PSE found Uniwide culpable of supposedly delaying or not filing its annual reports for the years 2013 to 2016 and quarterly reports starting 2014 up to June this year.
It was also allegedly delinquent when it came to submitting reports on the number of shareholders, foreign ownership, public ownership, etc.
But as early as May 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had already ordered the dissolution and liquidation of Uniwide’s assets.
The company was incorporated in 1994 to “primarily engage in the business of investment by way of acquisition, transfer, exchange or disposal of real or personal property.” It started commercial operations on July 1, 1995.
Uniwide was also the franchisor of Uniwide Sales Inc. and Uniwide Sales Warehouse Club Inc., the Gow family’s supermarket retail chains. As an organized real estate holding company, Uniwide’s real estate operations was primarily done through its subsidiary, Uniwide Sales Realty and Resources Corporation (USRRC) and Naic Resources and Development Corporation.
Uniwide’s beginnings date as far back as 1975 when Chinese-Filipino entrepreneur Jimmy Gow established Uniwide Sales Textile Bargain House Center on Rizal Avenue, Manila.
Uniwide grew in the 1980s, expanding its product line to become a complete department store and supermarket chain competing with midsized retail chains like Ever Gotesco Malls, Plaza Fair, Isetann and the defunct COD Department Store.
When Gow introduced the mass-oriented warehouse club concept in 1988, he already had his sights on the operation of large-scale shopping malls like SM Supermalls, Robinsons Malls and Ayala Malls. This initiative, however, also started the company’s problems.
At the height of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, the company entered into corporate rehabilitation. A receivership committee was formed by then SEC chair Perfecto Yasay Jr., appointing Monico Jacob as chair and Cornelio Peralta and Arthur Aguilar as members.
In 2013, however, the SEC ruled that the rehabilitation program was no longer viable and should be terminated. Uniwide’s liabilities, according to the SEC, had gone up to P12.292 billion but its total assets were estimated to be P2.726 billion only.
Likewise, Uniwide’s appeal for rehabilitation extension was said to have been strongly opposed by a majority of secured creditors.
Uniwide, on the other hand, claimed its total liabilities as of end-December 2012 was already down to around P1.3 billion. It also disputed SEC’s estimates on the value of its total assets.
It argued that the appraised value of its “Metromall property” alone was already at least P3 billion. Out of its hundreds of creditors, Uniwide claimed that only six creditors actually opposed its appeal for extension. The biggest of them were the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and Allied Bank, which represented just 15 percent of total secured credit, it said.
Uniwide also insisted it was on track with the 15-year rehabilitation plan the SEC had approved in 2002. It claimed it had fully settled 80 percent of all obligations. It also claimed it could meet the remaining 20 percent balance if allowed an extension in its rehabilitation.
Bottom line spin
Uniwide successfully raised P4 billion from both domestic and international markets during its initial public offering (IPO) in August 1996. At its peak in 1997, Uniwide “generated an annual cash flow of P20 billion, making it the single largest retail group in the country.”
Today, however, the company continues to be dogged by liquidity problems.
As a result of its delisting, Uniwide “will be prohibited from applying for relisting within a period of five years from the effective date of delisting.” Its directors and executive officers are also disqualified from being elected as such in any company applying for listing within five years from delisting.
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