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Biz Buzz: Boardroom ban

/ 05:23 AM August 29, 2014

Key members of Alphaland Corp. management may have to step out of the boardrooms of any publicly listed corporation in the next five years.

This five-year directorship ban from public companies is the stiffest penalty for any firm that’s involuntarily stricken off the local bourse.

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In the case of Alphaland—whose delisting has become inevitable—the buzz is that management will bear the brunt while board members who are not part of management may be spared, sources from the Philippine Stock Exchange said.

Unless the wind changes its course, Alphaland chair Roberto V. Ongpin a.k.a. RVO, president Mario Oreta and corporate secretary Rodolfo Ma. Ponferrada are among those likely to be affected, industry sources said.

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In the case of RVO, such a verdict could prompt his hibernation in two other listed companies: information technology/gaming firm Philweb Corp. and mining firm Atok Big Wedge Co. Inc.

If that’s the case, will RVO sell out, take the companies back to private hands, or cede control to a trustee?

Incidentally, two company sources separately refuted rumors that Philweb will be sold to a foreign group.

The involuntary delisting process was initiated by the Philippine Stock Exchange against Alphaland for a number of violations (including non-compliance with the listing agreement and repeated failure to make “timely, adequate and accurate” disclosures of information).

PSE sources have also said this delisting process would provide an exit mechanism for minority shareholders and the transfer of shares to allow the consummation of the settlement deal between RVO and estranged partner Ashmore.–Doris C. Dumlao

Hidden hand in MRT

Is there a conspiracy to cause a higher-than-average breakdown rate in the operations of the Metro Rail Transit’s Line 3 service?

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That seems to the dominant theory making the rounds within the MRT-3 organization, which is apparently powerless to stop the spate of rail service outages that have infuriated Metro Manila’s commuting public.

As was explained to Biz Buzz, the metropolis’ most overused commuter rail service is actually being maintained by a private firm.

The government side of the operation (tucked under a mere project management office under the Department of Transportation and Communications) is, in truth, prohibited from interfering in the maintenance of the trains.

As relayed to us, the right to select this private maintenance contractor is completely within the ambit of a private sector partner—a partner that has been there from the very beginning of the system’s operations in 1999.

MRT’s management now believes there is an element in the organization, acting on behalf of an external party, to cause breakdowns. In short: sabotage.

Watch this space, people.–Daxim L. Lucas

 

Knight Lhullier

Cebuana Lhuillier president Jean Henri Lhuillier was recently conferred the rank of Official Knight of the Equestrian Order of Saint Agatha and given the emblem for Cavaliere Ufficiale dell’ordine di Sant’Agata by San Marino, one of the smallest republics in the world, but one of the wealthiest in terms of gross domestic product per capita.

The order, given only to foreign nationals who have positively contributed charitable and other services for the benefit of San Marino with at least 10 years of service, was bestowed on Lhuillier, despite serving for only seven years as he was cited for his “exemplary work” and contribution to the state as San Marino’s honorary Consul General to the Philippines.

San Marino is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy, and one that relies heavily on its finance, industry, services and tourism sectors.

One of Lhuillier’s flagship projects for San Marino was the facilitation of an inter-country adoption program, wherein he helped orphaned and abandoned young Filipinos get adopted by Sanmarinese families. On the trade aspect, he has helped promote San Marino as a viable investment partner through coordination with the members of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, and with the local investors. He has also helped promote the wines of San Marino, one of the major products of the country, through wine appreciation events.

Under Lhuillier’s leadership, the consulate also holds cultural awareness campaigns in the Philippines to promote San Marino’s rich culture and heritage. The Consular Office in Makati has set up a permanent exhibition of San Marino products and souvenirs, conducted educational seminars and museum tours for students, and held Italian language classes and film showings.

On behalf of San Marino, Consul General Lhuillier has also organized relief operations for victims of national calamities alongside regular charity events. Doris C. Dumlao

Comebacking De Niro

After a surprise appearance last January to announce the entry of Las Vegas’ first chef-centric Nobu Hotel into the upcoming City of Dreams Manila, Academy Award winner Robert De Niro—an investor and co-founder of Nobu Hospitality—may be back in town for the opening of the integrated resort before the year’s end.

Nobu Hotel is inspired by celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, or “Chef Nobu,” a Japanese culinary genius who made waves in the United States before expanding overseas.

De Niro, for his part, was instrumental in bringing Chef Nobu from Los Angeles to New York and to the rest of the world.

In the Philippines, a 321-room Nobu hotel is among the international brands being prepared by the Melco group for City of Dreams Manila, a partnership with the SM group.

Organizers are still working on other big international celebrities to bring to the grand opening, the exact date of which is still fluid.

Had singer Celine Dion’s trip to Manila pushed through, she would have been among those big stars to grace the event, industry sources said.

In the case of De Niro—who is not just a celebrity guest but is, himself, a stakeholder—his return (not a surprise this time) will give fans something to look forward to.–Doris C. Dumlao

Power plan questions

Somebody is back from medical leave to defend the proposed emergency powers for the government ahead of what is supposed to be an imminent power crisis.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, just out of medical leave for having suffered “ruptured vocal chords,” made it clear in media interviews recently that he has heard of business groups having questions and mixed feelings about government using emergency powers to lease diesel generation units whose output will be traded “at market prices.”

Some sectors, like the Management Association of the Philippines’ energy committee, have proposed “limited” powers, and are urging other groups to support the recommendation.

There remain unanswered questions, however, on why government does not simply lift “temporary” additional price caps in the spot market, which are holding back an estimated 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power from peaking plant operators that will suffer financial losses if they run under current spot market conditions.

At least 600 MW are needed to avert a power crisis next year, so says the Department of Energy. That does not even consider how certain power plants will be impacted by recent troubles of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp., which may not be able to purchase fuel to satisfy legal obligations.

There are also unanswered questions on why government is not counting on additional capacity from renewable energy projects, just as it endorsed expanded installation for solar power under the feed-in-tariff scheme which, by the way, consumers will have to pay.

That would make it hard to explain why consumers would have to pay for additional power that is apparently not considered significant enough to count in 2015.–Riza T. Olchondra

 

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TAGS: Alphaland, Business, City of Dreams Manila, emergency powers, Energy, Jean Henri Lhuillier, MRT 3, Robert de niro
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