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Biz Buzz: Expat haven

/ 02:17 AM October 13, 2014

Despite the horrendous traffic, inadequate infrastructure, poor broadband connectivity and scant job opportunities that prompted about a tenth of the populace to seek greener pastures overseas, the Philippines is still one of the top 10 countries most favored by expats.

The Philippines ranked 8th of 61 countries evaluated based on the 2014 survey report of Expat Insider, run by InterNations, which is the first international online community for people who live and work abroad. This new report was based on insights drawn from 14,000 respondent-expats scattered across 160 countries.

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Topping the list of expats’ favorites was Ecuador, followed by Luxembourg (2nd), Mexico (3rd), Switzerland (4th), the United States (5th), Singapore (6th) and Spain (7th). The Philippines ranked higher than Australia (9th) and Hong Kong (10th). On the other hand, the least popular among expats were Greece, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Based on the 197-page report, the Philippines does not really offer much in terms of quality of life. In fact, it obtained mediocre scores in subcategories like leisure options and travel, as well as health, safety and well-being. Neither does it rank high in attracting expats due to lucrative job openings.

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However, the tourism department’s campaign slogan that it’s “more fun in the Philippines” has gained credence with the high scores given by expats when it comes to finding “personal happiness,” ease of settling in, finding local friends, family life (including availability of childcare and education) as well as ease in managing personal finance and cost of living.

The Philippines is also seen as a paradise for single expats.

“Some countries just stand out when it comes to romance. Greece, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, and the Philippines are our top spots for expat romance. These are the destinations with some of the highest percentages of expats who either met their partner in their country of residence or whose partner comes from that country. But that’s not all: They also scored well in other matters of the heart, such as the share of participants who are blissfully happy with their romantic relationship.”

At 66 percent, the share of people who are in a relationship with a local resident is the highest in the Philippines compared to any another country. Other top contenders are Argentina (55 percent), Chile (54 percent), Mexico (54 percent) and Greece (53 percent) which also show results that lie far above the global average of 31 percent. Doris C. Dumlao

Shell game

It seems shell companies remain a hot commodity these days, with some businessmen—with an extra P200 million to P300 million in cash—hoping to revive these dormant firms.

Biz Buzz market sources said one group is linked to the aggressive personalities behind mass housing developer 8990 Holdings Inc., best known for building residences under the Deca Homes brand.

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One of the targets, it appears, is a particular firm that has undergone some corporate restructuring after failing to make its previous business model work.

The group’s plans remain just plans given that no deal—if it comes to that—has been signed yet. Anyone following this area closely would know that transactions can sometimes materialize or fizzle on a whim.

In any case, that group is apparently just among several investors right now seeking shell companies whether for a long-term investment or a backdoor play.

The latter option remains attractive for some given the perception that it costs less and is faster to execute than say, an initial public offering. But those who have had some first-hand backdoor experience told Biz Buzz it’s really a mixed bag and it depends on the company.

In that regard, it’s wise to treat potential investments—or even short-term trades—the way one chooses a lifelong partner—which is a lot of getting-to-know-you first.   Miguel R. Camus

UN tax(wo)man

What did the Bible say about prophets being loved more overseas than in their native land?

Well, that certainly seems to be the case with Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares, whose campaign against local tax dodgers earned her another appointment to a multilateral post.

Henares—the country’s top taxman (whom many in business community love to hate)—was recently named a member of the United Nations’ committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.

If you’ve never heard of that group before, it’s because it is a relatively low key but influential subsidiary of the UN’s Economic and Social Council. It is responsible for keeping under review and updating various UN codes on taxation (which are then proposed to member countries as best practice examples).

In particular, the group works to resolve issues on double taxation and tax treaties between UN-member nations, an issue Henares is very familiar with given the tax bureau’s ongoing legal battle with the likes of champion boxer Manny Pacquiao (who is claiming protection from supposedly being taxed twice, in the US and in the Philippines, for his winnings).

The Zurich-based group also “provides a framework for dialogue with a view to enhancing and promoting international tax cooperation among national tax authorities and assesses how new and emerging issues can affect this cooperation,” according to information on its website.

Henares is, of course, no stranger to working for multilateral agencies. Before she joined the presidential campaign of then Senator Benigno S. Aquino III in 2009, Henares worked for the World Bank as a consultant, including a stint in Afghanistan to help the government of the war-torn nation set up a tax system.

So yeah, you could say she’s used to working in difficult situations. Daxim L. Lucas

Hot item

Last week, we told you about an exploratory meeting held between tycoon Lucio Tan and Ayala conglomerate head Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala that centered on a potential sale by the former of his Eton Properties firm to the latter.

Soon after that item was published, we received additional information about exactly why Makati City’s largest landlord, Ayala Land Inc., may be interested in Eton.

Note, of course, that it was not Ayala that came knocking on Tan’s doors, but the other way around. But since they’re talking anyway, Ayala—we hear—has become quite interested in a particular piece of property being held by the Tan group.

That prime piece of real estate is the 8,000-square-meter property on the corner of Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue and Paseo de Roxas, which has remained idle since the failed attempt of businessman-musician RJ Jacinto to buy and develop it in 1996.

Back then, the property was valued at P3.68 billion (a record high for pre-Asian crisis prices in the country). And, since the failure of the deal, it has been lodged in the books of the Tan-owned Philippine National Bank as an acquired asset (it used to be the site of an iconic circular PNB branch until the early 1990s).

Exactly why would the Ayalas be interested in it? For one, the property sits just across a narrow street from Ayala Land-built One Roxas Triangle which is the high-rise residence of choice of many of the country’s elite. The RJ Jacinto property would make a logical choice for Ayala to increase its footprint in the area.

Will this deal prosper? It depends. Another large real estate firm could be interested. Daxim L. Lucas

 

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