Biz Buzz: ‘Ramen Nazi’ vs actor-turned-politico

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01:39 AM September 24th, 2012

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By: the staff, September 24th, 2012 01:39 AM

A popular Japanese ramen restaurant in the middle of the Makati central business district reopened its doors last week after being ordered closed by the city government for a month.

The restaurant, which ranks as one of Metro Manila’s top ramen joints, was issued a closure order by the city hall for violations of “existing city ordinances,” upsetting many of the country’s top “foodies.”

So what exactly did this restaurant—which is owned by a Japanese expat—violate? Our sources say it was the Philippine tradition of kowtowing to prominent politicians.

Patrons know that the restaurant has a reputation of being a snob (one prominent food blogger calls the place “Ramen Nazi”). People who want to try the restaurant’s specialty “tantanmen” ramen will have to come in early because the owner only prepares a set amount of bowls a night. It could be 8 p.m. on a payday Friday, but when the owner says they’re out of noodles (even though they can always make a fresh batch), you’ll be pointed to the door.

Unfortunately for the restaurant, some customers are less understanding than the others. According to our source, one actor-turned-politician was treated like everybody else when he came in one evening. The restaurant’s staff didn’t let him order and he was told to come back at a later date.

Unfortunately for the restaurant’s owner, this particular politician—who is as influential as they come—had connections at city hall.—Paolo Montecillo

Brokers in hot seat

Four trading participants are in the hot seat these days in relation to the unusual trading of shares of agricultural product distributor Calata Corp. shortly after the company’s stock debut in May.

The four recently received “sanction” letters from Capital Markets Integrity Corp. (CMIC)—the independent market surveillance and regulation unit spun off by the Philippine Stock Exchange to become the watchdog against stock price manipulation and insider trading.

One of the four was slapped with more “violations” than the rest, although each of the brokers may still contest the sanctions from CMIC, which has a self-regulatory organization status (SRO) and thus empowered by the Securities and Exchange Commission to “police” erring brokers. Among the common violations noted was a breach of the “know-your-customer,” or KYC, rule requiring brokers—just like banks—to check on the capability of their clients to engage in stock trades. As we have earlier reported, the “clients” (where the financial bloodline of the questioned trades was traced to) were suspected by regulators of being mere “dummies” of the real culprit behind the Calata stock manipulation.

Biz Buzz has confirmed the CMIC’s imposition of the sanctions, which were mostly monetary, ranging from a low of P30,000 to a high of P260,000.  None of the tagged brokers were suspended.

The sanction letters, however, already insinuated that there was a “connection” between the brokers and those behind the questionable trades on Calata. As such, even the minuscule fines serve as a reminder that there’s now a Big Brother scrutinizing brokers’ trades and those who may have gone scot-free in the past for even more serious violations may not be as lucky this time.

But as to other people or firms involved in the questioned Calata trades, the ball is still in the court of the SEC. Chair Teresita Herbosa had said that the SEC had started to investigate Calata trades even before the CMIC started its probe. She noted that the SEC would have to be “very discreet,” though, until such time that it is ready to refer the case to the Department of Justice or any other pertinent agency.—Doris C. Dumlao

Ateneo and MVP

Most of the buzz over the weekend, of course, was about the decision of tycoon Manny Pangilinan to sever ties with the Ateneo over their “irreconcilable differences” in the hot button issues of mining and the Reproductive Health Bill.

While the public was surprised by the very public nature of the break-up (announced by one of MVP’s lieutenants at Philex Mining), word on the street is that Ateneo had actually seen this event coming as early as a few months ago.

According to our sources, MVP had been quietly and ever so slowly distancing himself from the university, which he helped support with millions of pesos in donations over the last two decades.

The Jesuits, we’re told, had so noticed MVP’s gradual pulling away some months back and had actually begun scouting around for potential new patrons.

Meanwhile, we hear that Ateneo will be keeping one of its buildings—the “MVP Center for Leadership Excellence,” which houses many student organizations—named as such, despite the very public break-up between the two parties.—Daxim L. Lucas

 

Offshore listing

Seafood producer Alliance Select Foods International Inc. may become the first Philippine company to attain dual listing on the Philippine and Singapore exchanges. But listing on the Jakarta Stock Exchange is being considered for its Indonesian subsidiary PT International Alliance Food Indonesia (PTIAFI), which has a processing plant and has likewise obtained authority to tap Indonesia’s rich fishing grounds.

The company’s board has authorized the issuance of shares from the authorized capital stock of Alliance to become the underlying shares of Singapore depository shares (SDS) to be listed on the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Ltd.’s (SGX-ST) Catalist, or second board. Up to 430.29 million is the number that was approved—using up all the leeway in the authorized capital—but only half of this may be used, according to Alliance chair Jonathan Dee.

Asked about the timing of the Singapore debut, Dee said “hopefully, it will be within the year or early next 2013; the earlier the better.” The SDS will be issued by a depository bank and represent a certain number of Alliance shares—exactly like PLDT’s American depository receipts except that these will be in Singapore.

This dual listing widens Alliance’s investor base in line with its aspiration to grow into a regional food company with a “decidedly Filipino DNA.”—Doris C. Dumlao

More birds

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) flights out of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) continue to experience problems due to bird strikes which, apparently, can suddenly affect a flight hours after the actual incident.

The latest incident involved the airline’s Zamboanga-Manila flight last Saturday. The PAL Airbus A319 was scheduled to leave for Manila at 6:55 a.m., but was canceled after its engine showed indications of a bird strike during aircraft inspection prior to departure.

The bird-strike incident was believed to have occurred during the preceding flight, PR 123, which departed Manila at 4:43 a.m. and before touching down in Zamboanga at 6:18 a.m.

PAL, of course, has publicly blamed the existence of a bird sanctuary for the frequent bird strikes.

PAL said the affected plane would remain grounded due to safety considerations. The 101 passengers on the cancelled PR 124 flight were transferred to other PAL and Airphil flights from Zamboanga to Manila.—Paolo Montecillo

Speaking of which…

Philippine Airlines is once again moving into the spotlight after word began to spread that it would “rationalize” its domestic flights by turning over to its Airphil Express subsidiary the responsibility of serving some of its lower-volume local flights.

Protests have been vented by some local government officials and congressmen (so far, mainly from Mindanao) whose constituencies would soon have to fly on… *gasp* … Airphil, instead of the more upscale PAL service.

According to our sources, PAL’s ongoing rationalization plan is part of management’s effort to improve the flag carrier’s profitability. Part of the plan calls for having PAL’s aircraft focus on international flights and high-volume domestic destinations, while having Airphil Express take over the less profitable routes.

There is hope for class-conscious flyers though. Airphil Express will soon be rebranded as “PAL Express” and may even get a color scheme similar to that of its parent firm. More importantly, a code-sharing agreement is in the works between both airlines, so the flyer won’t really see—or feel, hopefully—the difference, since Airphil/PAL Express’ “2P” flight code would be replaced with PAL’s “PR” code. Both airlines also share the same aircraft types, incidentally.—Daxim L. Lucas

 

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