BIZ BUZZ: ‘What, me worry?’

One would think that the mood at the San Miguel Corp. headquarters would be dark and gloomy a day after the Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the conglomerate’s joint plea with Meralco for a small rate increase to help it cope with losses on energy costs that have ballooned to P15 billion as of a few months ago.

However, it felt like business as usual at the conglomerate’s offices with no less than San Miguel president Ramon Ang reassuring initially worried senior staff that everything would be okay, despite the unforeseen circumstances that led to their 2019 power supply agreement with Meralco becoming a money-losing affair.

“Don’t worry!” he told his staffers in his usually expressive manner, gesticulating expansively with his hands. “Look at me. Do I look worried to you? Don’t worry. Pera lang yan. Kikitain natin yan ulit.”

Ang was particularly generous with his reassurance to staffers who were involved in formulating the 10-year fixed price power supply deals when the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were unimaginable events. These staffers were understandably concerned that their bets had soured.

This is, of course, a big deal especially since incorrect market calls that hit other conglomerates with billions in losses in the past have cost officers and employees their jobs. One such conglomerate even “let go” of the president of its property unit in the past after he hedged on raw materials incorrectly.”

But not in San Miguel, apparently. No one is going to lose his or her job, Ang told his people. No wonder they’re so loyal.

—Daxim L. Lucas

Open for business

The last four months have been tumultuous for Okada Manila with two rival sides claiming to be the legitimate controlling shareholders of the luxury casino resort and, in at least two instances, taking actual physical action to show the courage of of their convictions.

But after the Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI) board successfully regained control of the property in Entertainment City last month after the short-lived takeover of the Kazuo Okada camp, things have calmed down in the Okada Manila premises.

In fact, they’ve calmed down so much that business is actually starting to pick up, according to TRLEI president Byron Yip, who said they hope to end 2022 on a high note as the business gains more traction with the growing demand for gaming and recreation.

Add to this the government’s easing of mobility restrictions as the pandemic continues to wane and the Okada official believes the firm’s trajectory is now firmly on an uptrend.

In fact, for the first nine months of 2022—which includes the three-month period under the rival board—Okada Manila recorded a 355-percent surge in foot traffic versus the same period the year prior, driven largely by the steady influx of foreign and local guests.

“We at Okada Manila are seeing green shoots of recovery from when the pandemic struck the Philippines in 2020,” Yip said. “Through the collaboration of our employees and leaders, Okada Manila was able to record more than two folds growth in our monthly foot traffic.”

To meet the demand for its services, Okada Manila has expanded its retail business, revamped some of its restaurants, and opened a new VIP club.

Okada Manila is now home to boutiques such as Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Charriol and Lacoste, among many others. More retailers are expected to open in the coming months.

The integrated casino resort has also reopened some of its restaurants with the most recent one, La Piazza Ristorante Italiano, featuring a revamped menu.

For gaming, Okada Manila recently opened the Perlas VIP club for its discerning patrons.

Okada Manila has also opened more of its function halls, namely the Executive Lounge and the Glass Ballroom, for in-person events, and has reopened The Fountain, its iconic multicolored water feature.

It is now business as usual after the legitimate board of TRLEI—those that are recognized by Tiger Resort Asia Ltd., the 99.9-percent shareholder in Okada Manila—have been reinstated.

That doesn’t mean the fight is over though because the battles being fought in the courts are as heated as ever. Watch this space, folks.

—Daxim L. Lucas

CEO of the year

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chief Emilio Aquino was named “CEO of The Year” by IT market intelligence and advisory firm International Data Corp. (IDC), thanks to his pivot toward digital services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aquino led the SEC during the health crisis, when he oversaw the implementation of digital channels for registering corporations and the payment of fees.

This was timely for companies, especially startups seeking to do business during the tumultuous period of rolling lockdowns.

The new systems paved the way for a 53-percent jump in new registrations in 2021 to 37,379 companies. So far this year, 57,784 registrations have been processed via the SEC’s electronic registration system, the corporate regulator said.

“Our push for a technologically advanced SEC Philippines will prepare it for a digital-first world, where it can continue to thrive despite challenges, even ones as drastic as the COVID-19 pandemic,” Aquino said.

IDC said the awardees were thus deemed a “cut above the rest after displaying exceptional planning and implementation of digital transformation initiatives.”

They were chosen from over 1,000 entries from more than 700 organizations in the Asia-Pacific.

—Miguel R. Camus