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Biz Buzz: The price of WEF exclusivity

/ 12:06 AM May 23, 2014

How much does it cost for a company to be a top-tier partner of the World Economic Forum?

A lot of money, apparently.

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With the coming of the Davos-based talkshop to the country’s shores, its officials also wooed a number of local conglomerates to join its growing club of members.

Previous to the Manila edition of the WEF East Asia conference, Ayala Corp. and the International Container Terminal Services Inc. were the only Filipino companies in the exclusive club.

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Not anymore. Biz Buzz learned that at least two major Filipino conglomerates have ponied up the money to be part of the annual conference circuit (which includes exclusive invites to Davos, Switzerland every January, of course).

San Miguel Corp. and the SM group of companies each paid about 250,000 Swiss francs—a little over P12 million at current exchange rates—for a one-year WEF membership. This is significantly higher than the 50,000-Swiss franc fee WEF used to charge up until last year.

(WEF organizers must have breathed a sigh of relief with the two new additions after some of their long-time corporate members complained about the fee hike.)

Putting more money where their mouths are (as far as promoting the Philippines goes), both San Miguel and SM also shelled out substantial sums of advertising money to sponsor Philippine-related content on international cable TV news channels like CNN.

For the exhaustive CNN coverage of the Philippines this week, Biz Buzz learned that San Miguel forked over a total of $300,000—about P13 million—for the cable network to air a string of stories promoting the Philippines as a business destination.

Of course, notwithstanding the money San Miguel and SM are spending to promote the country… a few Cabinet officials are still bent on blocking their projects, we hear. Tsk tsk. Daxim L. Lucas

Off to Davos

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Still on San Miguel Corp., company sources said SMC had signed up for a membership category that gives five of its top executives access to WEF’s regional and global meetings, including the high-powered annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland early next year, in the next 12 months.

SMC president Ramon S. Ang confirmed his conglomerate’s debut on the WEF network yesterday.

Another new corporate member recently signed up by WEF is telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.  Doris C. Dumlao

Business in government

At the session on the education-entrepreneurship-employment nexus during Thursday’s World Economic Forum on East Asia, the panelists—which included SM Investments Corp. vice chair Teresita Sy-Coson—were asked what role should governments play to boost entrepreneurship.

For Sy-Coson, governments need not be bothered to oversee entrepreneurial development.

“We cannot wait for government; it will take a long time. Government has a role to play in many aspects. That’s why there are entrepreneurs—they know how to navigate” even without governments’ help, she said.

Instead, “businessmen should be in government,” Sy-Coson added, eliciting cheers from the audience.

She later clarified to reporters that she “was just joking” and that she meant that “people with business backgrounds should be in government.”

Asked if anyone in the influential Sy family plans to enter politics, she replied: “No, definitely not.”

Instead of venturing into the political realm, Sy-Coson would rather further expand family-run BDO—which its website proclaims to be the country’s biggest bank in terms of total resources, capital, customer loans, total deposits and assets—in Asean. Ben de Vera

The diplomat

TORN by the feud between his uncle Roberto V. Ongpin and British fund Ashmore, Philippine Bank of Communications and ISM Communications Corp. chair Eric Recto is now playing the diplomat who seeks to find a truce between two parties whose relations are as chilly as that of the Philippines and China.

Recto has remained friendly to both parties and he simply laughed off rumors that, after buying out RVO’s interest in PBCom and ISM, he’s supposedly organizing a coup d’etat to take on RVO’s other companies (like Philweb Corp. and Alphaland Corp.).

The four biggest stockholders of PBCom are now the following: Recto (24.19 percent), Nubla family (21.38 percent), ISM (21.38 percent) and Telengtan Brothers (10.645 percent). In ISM, the principal stockholders are now Montorfino Holdings (which bought Philweb’s 24.3-percent stake last year) and two Ashmore-owned British companies (20.52 percent). Montorfino is jointly owned by Recto and Ashmore, indicating that the bad blood between the fund and RVO has not affected the nephew. And since Recto co-exists well with Ashmore, there’s talk that he’s trying to patch things up between the feuding groups.

Asked if he thinks it is still possible to find a middle ground for RVO and Ashmore, Recto said: “There is always hope.” Doris C. Dumlao

Swift and safety

Pop star Taylor Swift will be in town next month not only for a much-anticipated concert but also to help automotive giant Toyota promote road safety.

Toyota has announced that the launch of its first road safety campaign in the Asean will coincide with seven-time Grammy Award winner’s upcoming Red Tour in Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

To be screened during the concerts of the American singer-songwriter is a video message where she preaches the importance of wearing a seatbelt, as a Toyota study conducted in five Southeast Asian countries last year found out that only one out of four drivers and passengers wears seat belts while on the road. Ben de Vera

$300-M club loan

SM Prime Holdings, now Southeast Asia’s largest property developer, has mandated five foreign banks to arrange a five-year $300-million club loan to fund landbanking and mall development in China. The club loan is expected to be finalized by June.

The participants in the loan syndication are Standard Chartered, HSBC, ING, Chinatrust Commercial Bank and Mizuho Corporate Bank, banking sources confirmed.

It was earlier announced that SM Prime would raise fresh funds for the construction of its massive mall in Tianjin, China, which will be opened next year. It has also acquired a new location for a future mall in the city of Yangzhou (central Jiangsu province), historically one of China’s wealthiest cities and known for producing great merchant families, poets, painters and scholars across different dynasties. Doris Dumlao

High tech Cavitex

Heavy traffic is unavoidable, but long lines to pay toll on expressways may become a thing of the past if RCBC’s soon-to-be-launched “test product” picks up.

The Yuchengco-led bank will introduce by June a prepaid toll payment card for motorists plying the Manila-Cavite Expressway or Cavitex.

RCBC global transaction banking group head Gary Villanueva says the Cavitex MyWallet card will be the first prepaid card payment system for a toll way in the country.

Machines will be installed at Cavitex toll plazas where motorists can swipe their loaded MyWallet cards.

If this venture becomes successful, RCBC may eventually also offer MyWallet services to other toll operators and even the light rail transit systems, Villanueva adds. Ben O. de Vera

E-mail us at [email protected] Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

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TAGS: ayala corp., Biz Buzz, Business, column, Entrepreneurship, ICTSI, San Miguel Corp., world economic forum
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