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Biz Buzz: Trojan horse?

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Biz Buzz: Trojan horse?

/ 07:51 PM July 31, 2011

Business tycoon Enrique Razon Jr.—who built a fortune out of international port terminal operations and boosted his wealth further after selling out of the country’s main electricity superhighway—is building a new business out of rubbish. Yes, you read it right: rubbish. Razon, apparently, agrees with the uber exploited phrase “May pera sa basura (There’s money in garbage).”

Sources said the businessman, listed by Forbes as the seventh richest man in the country with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion, is embarking on a waste management project and may announce a major contract soon. The new project deems that landfill is still the most economical way of getting rid of rising garbage, which is a consequence of rapid urbanization.

The businessman’s preferred site, our sources said, is north of Metro Manila rather than south of the metropolis. As it turns out, garbage accumulation is faster in the north than in the south (we’re not kidding).—Doris C. Dumlao

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Mining play expands

With mining itself being the stock market’s hottest counter for now (with no less than investment guru Mark Mobius bullish on this sector), more institutions are putting mining stocks on their radar screen. One of these is Oriental Peninsula Resources Group (ORE), which has recently sizzled at bigger volumes (landing on the list of most actively traded for most of last week).

Macquarie Equities Research recently visited ORE to discuss with management the company’s production and revenue potential. In a report issued in July, Macquarie noted that this stock was “waiting to be discovered” and that growth potential could be the share price driver. ORE was cited as a “play on higher-grade nickel ore.”

The research reported that ORE has successfully made eight shipments this year, with total volume shipped at 428,174 wet metric tons. While its operations exclusively involve raw nickel mining and transport of ore, the company is reported to be looking at nickel processing for operational expansion in the next two to three years. Margins were also noted to be supported by low operating cost model, in turn made possible by the minimal requirement for infrastructure needed in open pit mining.—Doris C. Dumlao

Shakeup in the works

The heads of some units of the Department of Transportation and Communications are at the risk of losing their jobs following the entry of Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, replacing Jose “Ping” de Jesus, according to our sources.

When De Jesus took the post as the department’s head last year, those named as heads of attached agencies ranged from industry and government veterans holding Ceso (career executive senior officer) positions to “friends” of Malacañang who helped out during the 2010 campaign.

But some sources said a shakeup was brewing involving those allied with the “Samar” faction (Secretary Roxas, of course, is head of the rival “Balay” group).

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One line agency head said some of the officials on their way out have their own brand of Ceso status which, in this case, means “classmate of Executive Secretary Ochoa.”

Roxas has admitted that the positions of some agency heads were being reviewed. But he denied this was politically motivated, noting that everyone would be assessed through his or her performance.

Whatever the criteria may be, there will still be likely exemptions—officials that some within the department say are beyond Roxas’ reach.

The most prominent example is Land Transportation Office head Virginia Torres, a well-known presidential “shooting buddy,” who has never been shy about the fact that she was “hand-picked” by President Aquino himself.—Paolo Montecillo

Bullish view on PH

A decade ago, emerging markets guru Mark Mobius removed the Philippines from his list of destinations for the billions of dollars he was managing under the Templeton Emerging Markets Fund after he felt he got the raw end of the deal when Philippine National Bank was privatized.

Back then, Mobius held a number of PNB shares and objected vehemently to the government’s plan to sell the bank to tycoon Lucio Tan (which would cause his holdings to be diluted).

At the receiving end of Mobius’ media rants was then Finance Secretary Jose “Titoy” Pardo whose department was in charge of the government’s privatization program.

Failing to get any concessions from the government, Mobius cast what was the equivalent of a curse on the local stock market, relegating the Philippines to a minor role in his multibillion-dollar portfolio.

What a difference a decade makes. Last week, Mobius was a guest of the Philippine Stock Exchange and was given the honor of ringing the closing bell at the Makati trading floor (the market was down 0.32 percent) and, according to Pardo—who is now PSE chairman—the old wounds were not scratched by either side.

Pardo even added optimistically that Mobius whipped out his phone to make a phone call right after ringing the closing bell… perhaps to alert his people abroad to local buying opportunities. Who knows, right?—Daxim L. Lucas

Boutique bingo

Gaming firm Leisure and Resorts World Corp. professionalized bingo operations in the country with the help of the Sy family, which has allowed the group to set up large parlors in SM malls. But the growth moving forward is seen in smaller “boutique” bingo outlets to be set up throughout the city, in areas with just as much foot traffic as the SM malls.

LRWC is investing about P100 million to expand the network of these boutique electronic bingo outlets, which will occupy only 150 to 200 square meters of space. There are now 15 of these shops, which the gaming firm hopes to double this year and further expand next year.—Doris C. Dumlao

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TAGS: bingo, Business, Department of Transportation and Communications, Enrique Razon Jr., Gaming, garbage, Government agencies and offices, landfill, Leisure and Resorts World Corp., Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Mark Mobius, Markets and Exchanges, Mining and quarrying, Philippines, politics, stocks, waste management
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