BIZ BUZZ: ‘Robinsons Bank of the Philippine Islands’ | Inquirer Business

BIZ BUZZ: ‘Robinsons Bank of the Philippine Islands’

/ 02:10 AM September 30, 2022

Banking circles on Thursday were abuzz with talk of an imminent acquisition of Gokongwei-owned Robinsons Bank Corp. by Zobel-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

The Zobel group’s Ayala Corp. is actively selling noncore assets but that doesn’t mean it’s shying away from attractive deals, especially those within its core expertise such as banking.

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We’re told the announcement of the “merger” could happen as early as today, with BPI ending up as the surviving entity. This could also open a slew of new services for loyal clients of Robinsons Bank, which is owned by JG Summit Holdings and Robinsons Retail Holdings.

—Miguel R. Camus

CFO swap

It’s typical of diversified conglomerates to rotate its key talents to broaden their experience, especially those at the C-suite level.

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As part of its “great transformation” to be the Philippines’ first “techglomerate”—one that ditches the traditional corporate framework in favor of an agile startup culture—Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) announced on Thursday key leadership changes which it described to be “seamless and synergetic.”

This involves the current chief financial officers (CFO) of AEV and banking arm Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) swapping roles effective Jan. 1, 2023. Manuel “Dmi” Lozano will be executive vice president and CFO of UnionBank, taking over the post of Jose Emmanuel “Toto” Hilado, who will then become CFO, senior vice president and chief information officer of the parent conglomerate AEV.

To take over Hilado’s role as head of treasury and global markets at UnionBank, the group brought in financial market veteran Johnson Sia, a longtime executive at the Philippine office of Dutch financial giant ING.

At AEV, Hilado will oversee treasury, tax advisory and compliance services, apart from finance, accounting and business support, investor relations as well as legal and compliance. There may be “some more adjustments at the appropriate time,” the group said.

As the incoming CFO of UnionBank, Lozano will supervise the finance unit and serve as chief financial spokesperson for the organization. He is tasked to be a “key player in crafting and implementing the bank’s business strategies.”

Lozano will oversee several units in UnionBank, including controllership, corporate accounting, tax and insurance, management information systems, finance, corporate planning/investor relations, remedial management and asset recovery, business services and wholesale credit review.

He will directly report to UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista on all strategic and tactical matters as they relate to corporate portfolio strategy and capital allocation, budget management, balance sheet management and tax optimization.

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—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Agri vs weak peso

There is little doubt that importing vital supplies in the agriculture sector is an important near-term solution to local supply shortages.

But advocates of local production are pointing out that these imports are also exacerbating the peso’s depreciation at a time when the local economy is already burdened with other challenges.

This is especially apparent in the sugar industry where Filipino planters and millers are at the short end of importation policies, especially since farmers of other countries receive massive subsidies from their own governments.

According to Systembrand Group managing director Angel Buñag, local agriculture is bearing the brunt of the weak currency, and what could become a full-blown food crisis will damage the retail market as well as related industries, the livelihood of families who depend on the sector and the economy in general.

To counter this, it is important to improve productivity in the sector.

“Farm productivity boils down to the sugar farmers and their participation as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME),” Buñag said. “Therefore, we developed an inclusion advocacy called PacKILOS to support sugar farms, for one, in managing and growing the business through modern production technologies and trade systems, over and above common agricultural practices, to boost their roles in the industry here and abroad and their competitiveness.”

The digitized PacKILOS program targets the essential areas of product development and branding, packaging graphics and structural design to improve market operations, distribution and logistics.

Packaging is an integral part of the food industry, accounting for a significant portion of the products’ value. Flexible packaging was the most utilized packaging material for the consumer market followed by glass and rigid plastics while inner-lined jute or woven plastic bags are used for transporting raw sugar through breakbulk cargo.

At a time of supply chain volatility, there is a need to use technology to improve the pricing and marketability of products. This is especially true for the sugar industry which employs over half a million workers, and as many as five million more via MSME employees.

Investing in product development may be the only way to mitigate the negative effects of a weak peso on the industry and on consumption spending. Indeed, no less that Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan has noted the urgent need to the local agri sector to be more dynamic and productive. The question is … are local stakeholders ready to respond to the challenge?

—Daxim L. Lucas
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TAGS: Biz Buzz, CFO, Peso, Robinsons Bank
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