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Villar group set for diversification

/ 05:01 AM April 10, 2018

After building a fortune through real estate development, the family of “brown taipan” Manuel Villar intends to venture into other capital-intensive businesses like telecommunications, integrated gaming and infrastructure.

These new businesses will be pursued outside publicly listed Vista Land & Lifescapes (VLL), company president Manuel Paolo Villar said last week.

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In telecommunications, the family is vying for the chance to be the country’s third telco player and is now looking for prospective partners, Villar said.

“The family is looking seriously at getting involved in the telecom side,” Villar said. “When I say seriously, it’s possibly a national involvement.”

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The Villars’ Streamtech Systems Technologies Inc. is seeking congressional franchise to provide a nationwide telco service. The application has hurdled the House of Representatives late last year and is now awaiting Senate approval.

Asked about rumors that Golden Bria Holdings—formerly Golden Haven which was rebranded to reflect plans to do business not just for the dead but also for the living—would be the Villars’ vehicle for the telco foray, Villar refused to make a comment.

Shares of Golden Bria have been sizzling in the stock market since January, defying market correction. It is now valued by the stock market at close to P194 billion as share price surged by 13.9 times from the end-2017 level to P303 each.

Asked why the group was interested in going into the telco business when other third players like the Gokongwei and San Miguel groups had both sold out, Villar said the group would come up with a business plan with the benefit of hindsight.

Being a property-based group may prove to be an advantage for the company and its plan to go into telecom.

“We have a lot of areas in the Philippines that we’re developing and could be used for telecom infrastructure,” he said.

Gaming is another area that the Villar family is “seriously looking” at outside Vista Land, Villar said.

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“I think the prospect for responsible gaming is good. There’s market demand for that and the family has real estate assets that will be useful. It’s a solid business to be (in),” he said.

The Villar group is among those that have submitted applicants for gaming license to state-run Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp. before Malacanang ordered a moratorium on the processing of new applications.

The group is also keen on investing in the infrastructure space but not in toll roads, Villar said.

Villar’s brother, Mark, is current public works and highways secretary and it was thus implied that the group would stay away from public toll road projects to avoid conflict of interest.

The family is keen on projects that will contribute to national development, adding that airport development is one possibility.

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TAGS: Business, Manuel Villar
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