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Biz Buzz: DPWH’s Yabut leaving early to care for parents

/ 07:06 AM June 03, 2015

If the mood at the Department of Public Works and Highways has been somber of late, it may be because the agency is losing one of its finest executives.

Biz Buzz learned that DWPH undersecretary Rafael Yabut will be retiring early after decades of service at the agency, to care for his aging parents.

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It apparently was not an easy decision, but Yabut confirmed to us that he wanted to spend more time with his parents rather than “have regrets” later on.

Having multiple responsibilities, Yabut is known to many as the main official implementing the department’s toll roads, including those under the public-private partnership program.

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His last project was the Cavite-Laguna Expressway, whose second bidding round last month earned the government its richest bid premium to date.

Even before being appointed undersecretary in 2008, Yabut already had a long career in government, where he started as a daily wage earner.

Also, it’s a well known fact that Yabut played the saxophone to earn a scholarship at the Angeles University Foundation, where he took his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering—the first of several degrees in the field.

At the DPWH, Yabut was known as an all-around troubleshooter and “action man,” since he was the type of person who gets things done.

Whoever his replacement is, this person certainly has big shoes to fill.–Miguel R. Camus

The ties that bind

Biz Buzz initially wondered why treasury officials of Development Bank of the Philippines chose a single counterparty with which to trade their P14.3-billion portfolio of government securities in a series of transactions that were questioned by the Commission on Audit after the bank realized losses worth P717 million.

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That party is, of course, First Metro Investment Corp., the investment banking arm of the Metrobank group.

All told, there were 28 sales of bonds with FMIC from January to March of 2014, all of which were bought back from the investment bank on the same day they were sold, and for the same price.

When the smoke cleared, the government bank was poorer by P717 million.

So why FMIC? Was it simply because DBP’s headquarters sits next door to Metrobank’s on Sen. Gil Puyat Ave.?

That couldn’t have been it, because FMIC actually holds office at GT Tower along Ayala Ave.

No sooner had Biz Buzz begun to wonder, when it started to receive a virtual deluge of phone calls, text messages and e-mail pointing to one very interesting tidbit.

As it turns out, at least two treasury officials of DBP used to work for Metrobank, parent firm of FMIC.

Our sources tell us that DBP’s treasury head, Mariquita Agena, and senior assistant vice president Rustum Corpuz were both employed with next-door-neighbor Metrobank in the past.

Does that explain why DBP chose to deal solely with FMIC on these controversial trades, instead of “spreading the joy around,” so to speak? Who knows?–Daxim L. Lucas

Warning on ‘split orders’

Now that the rollout of the PSEtrade XTS—the new trading system of the Philippine Stock Exchange—has been deferred, some market veterans see it as an opportunity to scrutinize features that could be potentially used to manipulate stock prices.

Veteran stock broker Joseph Roxas, president of Eagle Equities Inc., told Biz Buzz that corporate regulators must look into the “split order” feature of XTS, the new trading engine developed by Nasdaq which would replace the current PSE trade platform which had been used by the market since 2010.

“Split order” refers to an option in this new trading system to break down one large order into several batches, whether of uniform size or in random quantity.

In mature markets, dividing a large order into several batches to be executed one at a time is meant to avoid disruptions in market pricing.

But Roxas warned that such type of order could be potentially abused by people with “naughty intent.”

“If used aggressively, and used in the wrong way, it could be made to appear that there’s unusual activity—that there are many people buying and selling, and more so if randomly split,” warned Roxas.

It’s possible that split order could be aggressively used to hit the price of the seller, such that when a trader looks at a ticker, he will see different orders and think there’s a lot of demand for one particular security when in reality there’s only one order behind them all, Roxas said.

In any case, PSEtrade XTS is prepared to handle more volumes and trades even as the local stock market has seen the number trades increase almost fivefold from 2010.

This technology is used in more than 100 market places across the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Middle East. In Southeast Asia, this technology is also used by Bursa Malaysia, Singapore Exchange and the Indonesia Stock Exchange.–Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

E-mail us at bizbuzz@inquirer.com.ph. 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: DBP, DPWH, Metrobank, PSEtrade XTS, Rafael Yabut, stocks
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