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MVP eyes majority stake in ‘Philippine Star’

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Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan is set to acquire a majority stake in Philippine Star, as the telecommunications group beefs up investments in media.

Pangilinan on Tuesday said he was in talks with the family of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., which owns Star, for the possibility of gaining control of the paper.

The PLDT group’s entry will be done in phases, he said, starting with the increase of its current minority stake in the publication.

“We’ll see if the Belmonte family is open to selling a majority stake,” he told reporters at a press conference this week. “We won’t take a majority stake on day one. It’s really the Belmontes’ business,” he said.

He declined to say how much of Star’s stocks were owned by the PLDT group, through PLDT’s Beneficial Trust Fund. He said the PLDT group was not represented in Star’s board but it had enough shares to have one seat.

“We have a good partnership with them but we don’t use our board seat,” Pangilinan said, saying that the company did not want to be accused of trying to control the Star’s editorial direction.

“Even at TV5, we make sure that our news is balanced,” he said.

The PLDT group’s media investments are handled by MediaQuest Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Beneficial Trust Fund.

Apart from its stake in the Star and full control of Associated Broadcasting Corp., the company that operates TV5, MediaQuest owns radio broadcaster Nation Broadcasting Corp., and cable provider Cignal Digital TV.

In the print sector, MediaQuest has minority stakes in BusinessWorld Publishing Corp. and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

In 2009 Pangilinan announced a bid to acquire an 87.5-percent stake in Philippine Star and its sister publications for P4 billion.


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