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Biz Buzz: E-Pass out, RFID in

/ 07:04 AM May 08, 2015

Some motorists who use the Skyway elevated tollroad system that spans the Makati to Alabang stretch are chafing over what looks like a shortage in supply of so-called E-Pass devices.

This E-Pass unit is a radio device that allows the user to skip long queues at tollbooths thanks to electronic “handshakes” between the device (attached on a vehicle’s windshield) and the entry and exit points of the tollroad.

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Biz Buzz learned that the owner of the Skyway system—San Miguel Corp.—has begun to phase out the E-Pass in favor of a more efficient and effective system.

For one, we learned that the current database, which the conglomerate inherited when it acquired the company that operates the E-Pass system, is somewhat of a mess. Of the 150,000 registered E-Pass users, only around 75,000 are active, while the rest… well, their status is unknown. It is unclear whether they’ve dropped off the database because the devices are no longer being used, if they’ve been damaged, if they’ve run out of prepaid tollroad credits, or have simply run out of batteries.

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San Miguel’s solution to the problem is a new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scheme which will be issued soon to replace the creaking E-Pass system.

Unlike the E-Pass which is a rectangular piece of plastic that must be attached to vehicles, we learned that the RFID system will come in the form of an unobtrusive windshield sticker with an embedded chip that can be read by tollbooth sensors.

For Skyway motorists, they will no longer have to stop at tollbooths, but will merely have to slow down slightly. In fact, we understand that the system will be able to capture vehicle transits even at a speed of 50 kilometers per hour, especially since it will be used in conjunction with a plate number-reading scanner.

The system is already being pilot-tested and is set to be rolled out to the mass market next month.

And here’s the clincher: While the E-Pass cost the user P2,000 per device when it was introduced (before it was offered at a discount just before it was discontinued), the RFID sticker would be given to motorists for zero pesos, upon registration. That’s right, for free.–Daxim L. Lucas

‘Lucky Me’ IPO

A big food manufacturer is preparing to debut on the local stock exchange and creating a buzz this early.

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We’re talking about Monde Nissin Corp., best known for its flagship noodle brand “Lucky Me!”—a household name in the country and the dominant brand in this food segment.

We hear that this could be one of the largest initial public offerings in the local bourse as the offering size may hover between $700 million and $1 billion.

Monde Nissin was put up over 30 years ago by low-key entrepreneur Betty Ang, tagged the “noodle queen” and cited by Forbes Magazine as the 25th-richest person in the Philippines with net worth of $670 million in 2014.

This local company has been expanding in recent years, having acquired Black Swan, the leading brand of chilled dips in Australia, and a manufacturer of Greek yogurt.

We hear that Monde Nissin, whose manufacturing hub is in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, is now in the process of selecting underwriters for the IPO, which is expected to happen this year or the next.

It is expected to join the consumer play in the country, also riding on ample financial market liquidity that has driven equities to unprecedented heights.–Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Accolades for Bing

Veteran Pinoy private banker Renato “Bing” de Guzman, who recently retired as chief executive officer of Bank of Singapore, has ended his stint at the foreign institution on a high note.

The expat banker, one of the most influential private bankers in the region, has been given the “Lifetime Achievement” citation for 2015 by London-based business research group WealthBriefing Asia.

WealthBriefing noted that for a sector richly endowed with talent, there’s sometimes a standout candidate “who is demonstrably head and shoulders above their contemporaries.”

The group noted that Bing was “much revered,” not only for his role as chief executive officer of Bank of Singapore from February 2010 to January this year but for his “clear and insightful” mind.

The Pinoy professional’s crowning achievement, the group said, had been to make OCBC’s $1.4-billion purchase of the ING unit pay off.

As of September last year, Bank of Singapore’s assets under management crossed the $51.1-billion mark.

“But this was not enough for Bing. A banker with keen business acumen and a client-centric view, he proactively solicited feedback from clients and demanded pragmatic solutions to meet their needs,” the group said. “Looking back on his 35 years of banking experience he could, if wished, modestly lay claim to having been instrumental in growing the private banking business across Asia.”

Meanwhile, Bing was also among the recent recipients of the 2015 “Lasallian Achievement Awards” from the De la Salle Alumni Association.

After retiring as CEO, Bing will be based in the Merlion city until the end of June to fulfill his duties as senior advisor to Bank of Singapore.

As an initial salvo to his comeback to corporate Philippines, he has accepted a seat at the boardroom of the Gokongwei group’s JG Summit Holdings.

“Different role in life acting as advisor and taking board seats. It is definitely less stressful and gives me more time to pursue other interests and travel more. Life is too short.” Bing tells Biz Buzz.–Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

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: Bing de Guzman, e-pass, IPO, Markets and Exchanges, Monde Nissin, Renato de Guzman, RFID, Road Transport
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