Biz Buzz: Imitation, Greek-style

/ 10:49 PM January 08, 2013

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That’s why you have senators “imitating” dead presidents’ speeches. You also have stall owners in Greenhills openly selling handbags copied from high-end luxury brands. But this practice apparently hasn’t spared the local restaurant industry.

Since it opened, this “Greek” kitchen in San Juan has been raising a few eyebrows among restaurateurs for having a menu that’s the exact replica of the more established Cyma of chef wunderkind Robby Goco and his partners, down to the Roka Salata (Greek rocket salad), which isn’t even an actual dish found in Greece, but the brainchild of Goco. (Chef Robby spent a year in Greece to study the cuisine. Even he admits that what he serves at Cyma isn’t authentic Greek but his interpretation of the cuisine, which actually works for the Filipino palate.)


The new restaurant’s appeal is that it serves the same Goco-created dishes at rock-bottom prices (which could also explain its chaotic waitstaff and seating services as per foodies who have eaten there, in contrast with Cyma’s staff quality and professional waitstaff service.)

What is disturbing, industry insiders note, is that not only has the upstart blatantly copied Cyma’s menu, but its owners have been trying to muscle their way into Cyma’s food supply as well. Two of Cyma’s food suppliers have already complained about the arrogant way the new restaurant’s owners have been demanding “the same ingredients you order for Cyma.”


In one case, a supplier tried to explain to the new restaurant’s owners that he couldn’t turn over Cyma’s ingredients as these were pre-ordered and already allocated. He encouraged them to order their own ingredients in advance. Insistent on getting their hands on Cyma’s pre-ordered ingredients, the new restaurant’s owners even tried to wave large wads of money in the faces of the suppliers, so to speak.

The food supplier politely turned down their offer and told them that “it’s not about the money, it’s about building relationships with our buyers.”

Meanwhile, the upstart is set to open branches in a mass-based shopping mall. If the mall owners care about ethical business practices, then they might have to steer clear of this new Greek kitchen.—Daxim L. Lucas

Mining comeback

After being heavily battered by the Padcal tailing pond leakage, Philex Mining got a boost from its chair Manuel V. Pangilinan, who recently picked up additional shares in the mining firm. “It’s a sign of confidence in Philex’s capability to rise from this accident,” said Philex senior vice president Mike Toledo, adding that other members of the First Pacific group have also bought additional shares in Philex.

MVP, for his part, bought 100,000 shares at P15.50 each, bringing the total number of shares under his name to 4.605 million.

Also aiding Philex’s recent bottoming out is that some stock pundits are now betting that Philex will be able to resume operations, and thus make money, by the second half of this year. Asked about this, Toledo said the target was to finish the clean-up and remedial effort in Padcal mine by end-April, which means that by May—depending on government approval—Philex could resume operations. As such, while the mining/oil counter was a laggard during the stock market run-up of 2012, contrary to its great performance in 2011, big fund managers are expecting the sector to make a comeback this 2013.


Meanwhile, the issue of payment of more than P1 billion in fines is still pending reconsideration by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. Philex is “not unwilling to pay what’s due as provided by law,” Toledo said, but noted that its position has been that P1.3 billion would be spent for rehabilitation, remediation and intermediation efforts. Philex’s stand is that it has not been negligent in this case, given force majeure factors, but it is willing to pay the cost.—Doris C. Dumlao

That hot Ferrari

A CEO from a top 100 corporation is rumored to have bought a Ferrari 458 Spider, presumably as a Christmas gift for himself.

With his seven-digit monthly paycheck, the $300,000 (base price) for the gray roadster is just lunch money for this CEO running a money spinner.

But this fat cat is not driving his fast car on P-Noy’s “tuwid na daan” as he is going out of his way to dodge taxes and duties that would have doubled the Prancing Horse car’s total acquisition price. The Ferrari Spider was brought in through the tax-free diplomatic circuit as a service vehicle of an embassy from a Southeast Asian country.

Customs personnel, however, were on to the scheme as the same embassy had also brought in two Lamborghini Aventadors (reportedly for a businessman behind a pyramiding scheme) the same month.

So is this CEO planning to find a “Memphis Raines” (the car thief played by Nicolas Cage in the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds”) to swipe his beloved car?

The latest word is that this tax-dodging CEO is pulling out his Ferrari and planning to ship it back through other ports, apparently on the advice of “senior” customs personnel.—Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

Elbowed out of Cebu

The latest document released by the Department of Transportation and Communications regarding the Mactan-Cebu International Airport project (in an “instruction to prospective bidders” or ITPB) was aimed at disqualifying San Miguel Corp. and JG Summit Holdings from the bidding process, according to our sources. But more the former than the latter.

To recall, SMC top honcho Ramon Ang announced as early as two years ago that the conglomerate would bid for every single government project just for the sake of ramping up competition and, thus, allowing the state to get the best price. Few took him seriously then, but they surely are now.

Meanwhile, the Gokongwei family behind JG Summit has its roots in Cebu, and it’s logical for them to bid for the airport in what some still consider to be the family’s “home base.”

In any case, neither conglomerate will be able to join, given the DOTC’s new rules (issued Dec. 27, 2012), which prohibits airline operators from bidding for the airport deal. And given the difficult time the government has been giving Metro Pacific Investments Corp. of late, who knows if they’ll still be interested.

That leaves the formidable Ayala-Aboitiz consortium as the only viable bidder for the Mactan-Cebu project for now.

Incidentally, we hear that a former official of the Arroyo administration (by most accounts a bright technocrat) is now doing behind-the-scenes groundwork for the group. Interesting.—Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: bidding, Cyma, Department of Transportation and Communications, Ferrari 458 Spider, Greek restaurant, imitation, Mactan-Cebu International Airport project, mining, Padcal tailing pond leakage, Philex Mining, restaurants
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