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Biz Buzz: Sold!

/ 06:19 AM February 09, 2015

It took them almost two years, but the Ayala Avenue building formerly known as “Alphaland Makati Tower” has finally been sold, according to our sources.

Biz Buzz learned that ownership of the 35-storey tower that stands between the Madrigal Building and the former Prudential Bank building in the country’s premier central business district has finally changed hands “very recently.”

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And we’re not talking about the transfer of this particular asset from Alphaland of businessman Roberto Ongpin to the portfolio of his former partner, Ashmore Group. No sir, we’re talking about Ashmore having sold the building to a third party.

Visual evidence of this was last week’s unveiling of a new name for the building. Gone are the big bold “Alphaland” letters and, in its stead, is a plan and simple “Tower 6789” name.

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And before you jump to the erroneous conclusion that it was sold to the PLDT group (which was previously in negotiations with Alphaland to acquire the building), let us stop you right there. No, the PLDT group is not involved.

We’re told that, indeed, PLDT head honcho Manuel Pangilinan was about to shake hands with Ongpin for the building for a cool P8 billion, but that the telco tycoon then received a call from an unidentified person of authority urging him to “reconsider, lest his empire be given a more difficult time” with government. Which is just as well, because P8 billion was too rich a price for that building, we hear.

So who’s the new buyer who bought the building “at a good price”? It’s a mystery for now, but Biz Buzz gets the sense that one doesn’t have to look too far down the avenue for the answer.–Daxim L. Lucas

Man on a mission

Investment banker Mark Frondoso is a man on a mission.

Despite making big bucks as an expatriate dealmaker for the likes of Morgan Stanley where he was the country head of the Philippine office, Barclays Capital and the former Salomon Smith Barney, this high-flying finance man has chosen to come home to the Philippines and embark on a business model that—compared to his former profession—is relatively down and dirty (figuratively speaking, of course).

We’re talking about the consumer finance business, where Frondoso has lending operation for “unbanked” consumers that can only be described as “booming.”

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In this field, he has a lucrative operation called Home Credit Philippines, which caters to the financing needs of Filipinos who have limited or no access to credit to finance their acquisition of appliances, motorcycles or even mobile phones.

For this to work, Home Credit has representatives assigned to key establishments frequented by its target market. They then approach potential clients and offer them financing packages, after a realtime online credit-checking operation, thanks to a sophisticated software that uses mathematical and statistical models.

The software—owned by Frondoso’s Czech partners—can predict to a high probability which borrowers are good or bad credit risks, based on certain metrics.

And if that isn’t enough work for the investment banker, he also set up FSG Capital, which is presently engaged in acquiring and turning around “distressed assets” (which could be anything from credit card receivables in bulk or banks’ soured real estate loans).

Frondoso’s activities, despite being relatively small and operating under the radar, have not escaped the eagle eyes of some investment banks and businessmen overseas.

We hear that an international “Asian-focused” investment bank is now in the final stages of sealing a partnership with Frondoso, specifically his FSG Capital unit.

If all goes according to plan, the partnership will see the establishment of a local investment banking operation that will cater to the capital-raising needs of up-and-coming firms and entrepreneurs who have high growth potential, but are yet too small to be noticed by the larger financial houses.

Given the benefits it will bring to Filipino SMEs, this is one development worth keeping an eye on.–Daxim L. Lucas

Reminiscing about the war

I’ts been 70 years since the Battle of Manila Bay, a monthlong conflict that saw the Japanese military, then on the cusp of defeat, commit atrocities on the citizens of Manila—a tragedy that left about 100,000 non-armed combatants dead.

To commemorate this tragic event, Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) has teamed up anew with filmmakers Peter Parsons and Lucky Guillermo of Spyron-AV Manila to retell history at the close of World War II with a new documentary “Manila 1945: The Rest of Story.” This is a sequel to the 2007 documentary project produced by the same partnership.

The new film was launched in a gala premier Thursday last week at the National Museum, said PVB chair and chief executive Roberto de Ocampo, who emerged from the premier in awe of how images, actual footages and interviews with survivors, World War II veterans and historians were pieced together to come up with a powerful one-hour documentary.

The film also delved into related aspects of the war, including discussions on the role played by President Jose Laurel as head of the Japanese-sponsored Philippine government, the aftermath of World War II, as well as controversial topics on Filipino collaborations with the Japanese by the Makapilis and the Kalibapi.

Strewn into the film were interviews that captured the emotional, nostalgic and sometimes fiery sentiments of those who survived the Battle for Manila, including Edgar Krohn Jr., Roderick Hall, James Litton, Col. Armando Gatmaitan and PVB chair emeritus Col. Emmanuel de Ocampo (ret).

It also featured different perspectives of historians and World War II experts like Benito Legarda Jr., Augusto de Viana, Jose Antonio Custodio, Ricardo Jose, Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua, Robert Hansen and Bernard Karganilla.

This diversity is seen to make the documentary a springboard for healthy debate and discussion on this emotionally charged chapter of Philippine history.

Young director Joel Nathan “Bani” Logroño helmed the film in his full-length directorial debut. Sylvia Lichauco-de Leon served as the film’s executive producer and Mai Guillermo was producer.

According to PVB, the primary aim of this film was not to highlight the brutality and suffering brought by the war, but more to celebrate the heroism, resiliency, and enduring spirit of World War II heroes.

The film will be showcased in universities and colleges nationwide while special screenings are also being planned abroad as well as for special groups. Complementing the film is the book form of Manila 1945, a coffee table book co-published by PVB and AV Manila Creative.

PVB and Spyron-AV believe that Filipinos of today should be proud of their forefathers who have witnessed such atrocities and honor their memories by knowing that who they are right now as Filipinos was shaped by a tragic past.–Doris C. Dumlao

Hard-pressed for answers

It looked like representatives of IT service provider Indra Sistemas, SA were literally squirming in their seats during intense grilling at the joint Senate and House oversight committee on automated elections Thursday last week.

Lawmakers took turns quizzing Indra representatives Iñigo Guevarra and Javier Moreno as to how many PCOS machines (precinct count optical scanners) the firm has actually manufactured, supplied and used in automated polls worldwide.

Unable to come up with straight answers, the Spanish executives tried to squeeze out of the situation by enumerating countries where they had election contracts—but those turned out to be manual elections.

Thus, the committee ordered Indra to submit the exact number of manufactured precinct-based optical mark reader (OMR) machines including dates and specific elections where these were used to show if they really produced them and did not mislead the Comelec.

Lawmakers want to establish whether the Spanish firm really has the requisite experience manufacturing voting machines and the capability of managing elections as complex as the Philippines’ that require more than 100,000 computerized optical scanner machines at the precinct level.

With the Spanish government as its single-biggest shareholder, Indra has come under close scrutiny following its aggressive bid to bag a multimillion-peso contract to supply and manage the Philippines’ 2016 automated polls.

Not a few lawmakers have raised alarm bells over possible sovereignty issues, especially since the Philippines was a former Spanish colony for more than 300 years. How this saga will eventually play out is, therefore, something to watch closely in the coming days.–Daxim L. Lucas

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: Alphaland Makati Tower, consumer finance, Elections, film, Mark Frondoso, PCOS machines, Philippine veterans bank, property, Real Estate
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