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Biz Buzz: Sy, Mexico’s Slim eye galleon project

/ 11:14 PM July 12, 2015

SM PRIME Holdings Inc. big boss Hans Sy was not in town to receive the most coveted “Best Developer” award bagged by his company—now a leading developer in Southeast Asia—during the Philippine Property Awards 2015 last week.

He was in Mexico rubbing elbows with Mexican magnate Carlos Slim Helu, the second wealthiest man on the planet after Bill Gates (and at some point even ranked higher than the Microsoft founder) with about $77 billion in fortune based on Forbes estimate.

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Sy himself flew to Latin America to discuss an important project with Slim. The billionaires are collaborating on a galleon museum that will rise at SM Mall of Asia (MOA). As its name implies, the museum will celebrate the historical ties between the Philippines and Mexico—both former Spanish colonies—during the galleon trade (1565–1815) that shipped Oriental goods such as porcelain, silk, ivory, spices and other exotic goods from China in exchange for New World silver through the Manila-to-Acapulco trade route before being transported by land to Spain.

SM Prime chief finance officer Jeffrey Lim said the construction of the museum building beside the iMax theater in MOA was ongoing, for which the SM group is spending about P250 million. On the other hand, Slim is expected to bring in some valuable artifact and other stuff from the other side of the world. This collaboration between the billionaires suggests that the upcoming museum will be well-curated and world-class.

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In recent years, the Chinoy-led developer has paid more attention to the aesthetics, greenery and cultural mix of its commercial developments even as its empire started out as a chain of plain, big box-type shopping malls.

So if the Ayalas’ Mind Museum in BGC has life-size replicas of a T-Rex dinosaur and a butanding (whale shark) among its key attractions while the Ayala Museum has dioramas of Philippine history and pre-colonial treasures on display, would there be a full-size wooden galleon as its centerpiece? The Mexican billionaire benefactor may even be persuaded to visit the museum someday, if not cut the ribbon during its opening. The galleon museum is expected to open its doors in about a year.

How did the Sys establish a link to Slim? It’s through the efforts of former senator Edgardo Angara and Mexican ambassador to the Philippines Catalino Dilem Jr.

Is it possible that the richest men from the two countries discussed other potential new ventures? “No, it’s really more about social responsibility,” Lim said. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Amending ‘archaic’ law

TO ALIGN Philippine corporate policies and practices with its Asean neighbors in time for the region’s economic integration, policymakers are working double time to pass needed legislation before election fever sets in.

Members of influential business groups like the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), among others, are supporting efforts to amend the country’s antiquated corporate laws.

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Of particular interest is a proposal to lift the term limits of corporations from the current maximum of 50 years to perpetuity.

Apparently, many Philippine companies inadvertently forget or fail to meet deadlines to file for an extension of their corporate life with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Aside from costing companies an “arm and and leg” in fines and costly litigation, business owners and their employees lose sleepless nights with the grim prospect of closure and banks calling on their debts. Business groups say this is unfair to legitimate companies with every intention of continuing their trade and employing people.

Some quarters in SEC, however, are reportedly unhappy with the prospect of amending the archaic law.

Insiders say “squeezing” hapless companies applying for extension has become some sort of a “cottage industry” at the SEC. How else can it be explained, they say, that the SEC is advocating to lift corporate term limits by law, while at the same time aggressively slugging it out in court to push companies out of existence.

Why, indeed? Daxim L. Lucas

Unlocking Ortigas

WITH land-rich OCLP Holdings Inc.—the parent company of Ortigas & Co. Ltd.—now in partnership with the two biggest property developers in this side of the world, the new board is mapping out a new long-term plan to unlock values from its assets.

The crown jewel is of course the 16-hectare Greenhills commercial complex but aside from that, OCLP also has Capitol Commons, Circulo Verde and Tiendesitas. It also has some valuable parcels of land within the Ortigas area, the option to recover (via reversion of rights under the old donation deal) parts of Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo.

Meanwhile, OCLP also has a 76-percent stake in publicly listed Concrete Aggregates Corp. (CA), which, however, in 2008 signed an operating agreement granting Batong Angono Aggregates Corp. (BAAC) the right to operate its Angono quarry for 15 years.

Prior to this, it directly operated its aggregates plants—the source of its quality aggregates—at the foot of the mountains in the outskirts of Barangays San Isidro and San Roque in Angono, Rizal. But once the operating agreement expires in about eight years, then OCLP can start unlocking values from its vast property assets in Rizal.

ALI chief finance officer Jaime Ysmael said that, together with the SM group, the existing plan for OCLP was now being fine-tuned up to the year 2020. Asked whether OCLP will have a capital call, Ysmael said: “We don’t know yet, but it’s one of the alternatives.”

For Greenhills, apart from the first residential tower Veridien, Ysmael said a couple of new residential buildings will be put up. The mall itself will be redeveloped in phases and anchor supermarket Unimart will be relocated to a new building. More parking space will also be opened up. “We have to do it (redevelopment) in phases because it’s already operating, so there will be least disruption in revenues,” Ysmael said.

“Hopefully, we will also craft a landbanking strategy, a five- or six-year plan which we intend to finalize,” he said.

Asked whether OCLP will carve out projects to either ALI or SM Prime similar to how they are dividing their jointly acquired new landbank in Cebu City, Ysmael said: “In the case of Ortigas, we’re using the company itself because they have resources, the manpower and the brand. We don’t have to parachute ourselves and take over, but there might be direct partnerships in case they need help or want to accelerate projects.” Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

The blues

ANTONIO “Tony Boy” Cojuangco Jr. has got the blues, but he is not complaining. On the contrary, he has embraced it.

Cojuangco has joined the board of the Philippine Blues Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving blues music history and ensuring the future of the blues art form in the Philippines and has already contributed ideas and suggestions to develop blues talents from the grassroots.

Cojuangco is not a stranger to the music world.

Aside from handling a myriad of business interests, Cojuangco is known in his circle for dedicating time and talent for his music.

Cojuangco is a guitar enthusiast and plays regularly at Strumm’s in Makati—owned by fellow PBS board member Mari Lagdameo – as part of Glass Onion, which plays, among others, songs of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

One of the projects that Cojuangco and the strengthened PBS are looking into is the establishment of a music school with instructors coming from the groups that the PBS had sent to Memphis, Tennessee, to compete in the prestigious International Blues Challenge, which gathers blues groups from all over the world.

These Filipino groups, including The Brat Pack and Glass Cherry Breakers, placed well in the competition, making the world realize—if they haven’t already—that Filipino musicians can compete with the best in the world. Tina Arceo-Dumlao

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: Business, economy, Hans Sy, News, Philippine Property Awards 2015
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