Truce or consequenceBy Conrado R. Banal III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The entry of conglomerate San Miguel into PAL is brightening up the prospects of the country’s flag carrier: It now seems ready to compete with other airlines in the region, which is the world’s fastest-growing market for air travel.
After years of winning streak in huge acquisitions here and abroad, San Miguel last month took management control of PAL, and only a couple of days ago, the airline launched what its president and COO, Ramon S. Ang, also known as “RSA,” called “customer-oriented innovations.”
RSA summed up PAL management’s new strategy into three segments, namely, modernization of its fleet, expansion of its network and improvement in passenger service.
Actually, in a grand avant-garde affair at the elegant Shangri-La Hotel in Makati last Monday, PAL announced the delivery of another Boeing 777-300ER aircraft as part of its fleet modernization.
According to reports abroad, most international airlines prefer the new Boeing model precisely for its fuel economy, which is now the most critical factor in the airline business, because oil prices have gone up.
In the next few months, PAL expects delivery of three more of the aircraft model. Thus, RSA announced that the airline would resume flights to destinations that were canceled in the past several years: Toronto, Paris and New York City.
To expand its network and, thus, its reach to the riding public, PAL also launched a unique system called “ticket kiosks,” located at Petron gas stations, another company under the San Miguel umbrella.
Passengers may now book flights to any domestic destination at the kiosks, which went online on Tuesday. Initially, they were available at Petron stations in Bel-Air Square (Makati), Connecticut (Greenhills), C-5 McKinley and Filinvest.
As for passenger “service,” PAL is set to use “Apple iPad” tablet computers for inflight entertainment on trans-Pacific flights – i.e. United States and Canada – loaded with movies, TV shows, music, games, newspapers and magazines.
Finally, PAL kicked off the “PAL Master Chef” project, which features guest chefs who specialize in western and Asian cuisines, to mastermind the airline’s inflight menus. They are Fernando Aracama (Filipino food), Billy King (Western), Masahiro Mizumoto (Japanese), See Cheong Yan (Asian fusion) and Khun Suwanna Puangdee (Thai).
Between us girls, airline food has never been better.
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Finally, things may be looking up for a listed holding company that has been languishing in the stock market for the past five years.
Take note that almost the entire stock market has been posting record highs, apparently taking inspiration from the economic gains under the Aquino (Part II) administration, except this company called ATN Holdings.
Price of the issue is doing at a little more than P2 per share, although records of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) showed that, some years ago, the issue was doing at more than P10 per share. To think, this is an up market, and the listed ATN is still languishing. What happened to the issue?
Sometime ago, word went around the market that some major stockholders of the company got into a messy boardroom fight over some corporate policies and actions. They even filed court cases. As a consequence, the market dropped the issue just like that. The market never liked trouble among listed companies, much more some court cases that would certainly delay projects, if not totally cause the collapse of the business.
Now, as I said, it seems that things are looking up for the holding firm as word goes around in business that, finally, the two major stockholders have called a truce. Yes, they already agreed to go into a corporate peace pact.
PSE records showed that the company had been asset-rich all along, owning 40 percent of an office building on Shaw boulevard, Mandaluyong, which is a fast-growing portion of the metropolis with all those high-rise condos under construction.
Moreover, there is talk about the company’s 300-hectare property in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), which is adjacent to the Batasan area, rather near the Ayala Heights project of listed Ayala Land. Word has it that a huge real estate company is taking interest in the ATN property, since there is hardly any more contiguous property of such size in Metro Manila or, perhaps, even in “mega Manila,” reaching as far out as Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan and parts of Quezon.
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Last year, we reported that Santiago Dumlao Jr., a well-known business personality who, in 1998, ran for president of the Republic under the platform of morality, had a passion for writing books about noteworthy people. I learned then that Dumlao was researching on a book about former SSS administrator Carlos Arellano, who turned the pension fund into an aggressive stock investor during his stint at the fund under the man named Band…Wrist Band.
Come closer: I saw copies of the book, entitled “The Art of Wealth Creation,” at the National chain of bookstores. It contains invaluable insights on stock investments.
During his time at the SSS, Arellano, for instance, invested in Philex Mining shares, slowly accumulating them until the pension fund had enough shares for two board seats in the company. According to the book, the SSS bought the Philex shares at the average of 17 centavos per share, but after all the dividends it earned through the years, the average cost should be down to 5 centavos per share.
Philex is now doing at P22 per share—despite the downtrend in the PSE mining sector, perhaps due to the new mining executive order issued by our boss, our leader Benigno Simeon (aka BS), which the market took as a step backward for the mining industry.
Here is a quote on stock investment, printed at the back cover of the book: “To begin with, you must perform in-depth analysis and studies in terms of fundamentals and technical, covering both macro and micro factors. Then it becomes a judgment game. There is no real genius when it comes to the share market. Developments locally, as well as globally, can suddenly change the status of the market. Only God can foretell.”
Then it continues: “Sometimes He tells you.”
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