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/ 12:17 AM March 10, 2014

Big-shot friends

Apart from his former ties with San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang (and head honcho Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco before that), healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez also has close ties with other movers and shakers in the world of business.

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Chief among them is the D.M. Consunji Inc. construction giant owned by billionaire Isidro “Sid” Consunji, whose sister Luz sits on the board of the healer’s Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation.

In fact, board members told Biz Buzz that the DMCI group has been instrumental in Fr. Suarez’ ministry in and around San Jose, Mindoro, (whose bishop, the Most Rev. Antonio Palang, is one of the few members of the Church hierarchy friendly with the healing nowadays).

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DMCI, we’re told, shouldered the construction of a small church on the island of Ilin, off Occidental Mindoro, and provided all the needed construction materials.

Of course, this probably jibes with the company’s corporate social responsibility work since Ilin is just a short hop from Semirara Island, where DMCI-owned Semirara Mining Corp. operates a large coal mine.

Other corporate benefactors include the Landmark department store chain of businessman Enrique Cheng (which explains why Fr. Suarez celebrates some of his healing masses on the store’s premises), and Century Properties Group of Ambassador Jose “Joey” Antonio (in whose private residence the healer once said mass, we’re told).

In fact, the website of the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor displays the logos of DMCI, Semirara, Landmark, Century Properties, Islander (the rubber sandals maker) and Aces Marine and Links Industrial Corp. prominently.

Nice, affluent circle of friends. Daxim L. Lucas

MVP goes to Stanford

In another first, businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan will speak today  (tomorrow, when you factor in the time difference) at the most hallowed educational institution in Silicon Valley—Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

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We’re told that MVP is set to speak before a sold-out crowd at the US-Asia Technology Management Center, which is part of Stanford’s School of Engineering.

This marks the first time for a Filipino CEO to speak to Stanford students and he is expected to talk about growth opportunities in the region, the social or technology innovations needed to spur faster economic development, as well as the prospects of partnering with Asian conglomerates.

Established in 1992, the US-ATMC is an education and research center that offers programs aimed at combining theory and practice in the fields of business and technology—topics which the businessman is clearly comfortable with.

We’re told it will also involve a question-and-answer portion to allow MVP to better interact with the assembled crowd. And in what is expected to be a relief for the tycoon’s handlers, the crowd is not expected to be interested about his rumored political ambitions. For once. Daxim L. Lucas

Breaking into BGC

In the wink of an eye, the SM group of tycoon Henry Sy has become one of the biggest office property landlords in frenemy territory—Bonifacio Global City—with the acquisition of a 90-percent stake in the five office towers built by the Net Group.

This gives SM a controlling interest in the following buildings: Net One, Net Square, Net Cube, Net Quad and Net Plaza. Counting only the gross leasable area, these five buildings have a combined space of about 147,000 square meters out of a gross floor area of 220,000 square meters.

These prime pieces of real estate are currently home to multinational corporations such as Accenture, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase.

But how much did SM pay for the 90-percent stake unloaded by private equity fund manager Apollo real estate group in these five towers? Our reliable industry sources estimated that 100 percent of the five towers was valued at around P18.8 billion. This implies that the SM group paid P16.92 billion for the 90-percent stake.

Not too far from the office hub, the SM group has likewise set up camp in the retailing business, the hotly contested SM Aura. Doris C. Dumlao

Ever buyer

A Quiapo-based real estate firm has acquired an 18-percent stake in debt-strapped mall and cinema operator Ever Gotesco Resources and Holdings Inc. from the Gotesco group.

This company called Consolidated Ventures Inc., at least based on its general information statement at the Securities and Exchange Commission, does not seem to be affiliated with any big group as what was initially speculated when 897 million shares of Ever were recently crossed at the stock market.

Consolidated Ventures, which was registered in 1978, has one common director and officer with Ever, which some people speculate could just be a transfer of ownership from one affiliate to another for tax management purposes. Some say it could also be a consolidation of shares for the purpose of bringing in a big new investor.

Apart from the value of its listed shell company, the group controls a land and mall complex in Pasig City, which secures certain loans from a syndicate of lender banks. It also acquired a parcel of land in Calamba, Laguna, as a result of the compromise agreement with creditors. Doris C. Dumlao

PR promises

A consumer group is urging the Department of Trade and Industry to file charges against manufacturers and distributors of substandard steel products —a glowing promise made by the department’s officials in January after they seized these steel items from retailers last January.

According to the Konsumanteng Kagay-anon Inc.,  it would send the wrong signal about the government’s determination to protect consumers if these charges were not filed as promised [as stated in a press release, no less, of Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and Consumer Protection Group chief Victorio Dimagiba].

Of course, the danger to consumers is plain to see: Substandard steel products used in the construction industry poses serious threats to public safety.

In a letter Dimagiba, Konsumanteng Kagay-anon asked that manufacturers found selling uncertified and substandard steel products in previous raids be charged.

Last January, teams from the DTI and the PNP raided two hardware stores in Caloocan. Those raids yielded more than 10,000 pieces of substandard and uncertified steel bars. The products were confiscated and destroyed as required by law.

Rene Michael Banos of the consumer group also asked the DTI to impose penalties and cancel the PS licenses of the manufacturers whose substandard products were found during the raids. The DTI has yet to issue an official response to the request of the consumer group.

Our source tells us that, based on their tags, the confiscated products allegedly came from local manufacturers like Cathay Pacific Steel Corp., Continental Steel Manufacturing Corp., Dragon Asia Metal Corp., Mackay Industrial Corp. and Somico Steel Mill Corp. Whoops. Daxim L. Lucas

‘Not interested’

Running companies is okay but running for politics is still a big no-no.

That’s how business Manuel V. Pangilinan, a favorite target of election-related speculation, effectively put it amid talk that he was being considered as a running mate by Vice President Jejomar Binay, who has made known his own presidential bid for 2016.

Pangilinan nevertheless said he was “grateful” that he was being considered while further making a quip that he was “too old” for the job.

The businessman, who runs some of the country’s biggest utilities and mining companies via the Salim family’s investment firm in Hong Kong, typically figures in speculation when it comes to running for public office. But Pangilinan, known in business and sports circles by his initials MVP, has made no bid thus far.

He certainly has a lot on his plate with various regulatory challenges facing his group’s power distribution, water and tollroad businesses at home.

But whether there is a change of mind or of heart in 2016, and whether Pangilinan would decide to be a presidential hopeful’s MVP remains to be seen. Miguel R. Camus

Whatever it takes

It’s “so far, so good” in terms of the construction of the long-awaited Stage 3 of the Skyway project that will connect the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and shorten travel time across the metropolis for traffic-weary citizens.

But wait. Biz Buzz heard that plans are afoot for a “left-leaning group” to make noise in the coming weeks to protest the mega construction operations, not only of Skyway Stage 3, but also of the Naia Expressway that will connect the three terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport with Pagcor Entertainment City.

Both projects are, of course, being done by San Miguel Corp. as part of the conglomerate’s commitment to President Aquino to finish both traffic-easing schemes before his term ends in 2016.

According to our sources, however, this left-leaning group is planning a series of protests aimed at slowing down the pace of both Skyway Stage 3 and Naia Expressway using the “tried and tested” peg of “environmental concerns”.

Here’s the catch: One official from another conglomerate was seen attending this left-leaning group’s planning meetings for the protest. Some business rivals will do whatever it takes, apparently. Tsk tsk. Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: Business, D.M. Consunji Inc., economy, News, San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang
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