BIZ BUZZ: Pending Smart vs Makati issues | Inquirer Business

BIZ BUZZ: Pending Smart vs Makati issues

/ 02:20 AM March 16, 2023

Smart Communications Inc. had a rough start to the year when the Makati City government padlocked its headquarters on Feb. 27 due to alleged unpaid taxes amounting to P3.2 billion and for operating without a business permit since 2019.

It was resolved a few days later when the Manuel Pangilinan-led company submitted the documents required by the city government.


While the PLDT wireless unit has regained access of its office, the mentioned cases have remained pending, however.

“These cases remain pending but will be subject of the parties’ joint motion for approval of compromise agreement signed by Makati City government and Smart on March 2,” the telecommunications giant said in reply to the Philippine Stock Exchange’s query on the matter.


Smart, however, clarified that it has been applying for the business permit annually but the local government unit “has not been issuing.”

As for the tax concerns, the PLDT unit said it appealed earlier the tax deficiency case lodged against the company, arguing that “it fully paid the local franchise taxes based on gross receipts within Makati City’s territorial jurisdiction.”

Amid these issues, Smart assured its customers their services have been up and running.

These concerns, which put tycoon Pangilinan under a harsh spotlight anew, came about two months later after the parent company revealed it had incurred P48-billion budget overruns because of 5G technology “over-orders.”

—Tyrone Jasper C. Piad

‘Techglomerate’ techs up

Aboitiz-led Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank), the newest banking blue chip in town, has been consolidating its core businesses since its P72-billion acquisition of Citi consumer and retail banking assets in the country.

We hear from reliable banking sources that UnionBank is planning to sell UBX, originally its financial technology venture studio but which has now become a leading open finance platform in the country.

“Outside the regulatory constraints [of the banking system], it will be freer to unleash the full value and can engage in more activities,” a well-placed source said.


As the solutions developed by UBX have become part of mainstream banking, the platform is also expected to cast a wider net if it’s not a subsidiary of any bank, given the cutthroat competition in the financial services industry.

UBX has already attracted a lot of interest from external tech investors as it is on the brink of monetizing and commercializing its platform. But the thrust now is to keep it within the family.

We gather that parent conglomerate Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV)—which is positioning itself to be the country’s first “techglomerate,” one that is driven by data science and artificial intelligence, and designed to help transform economies and communities—is the one poised to gobble up UBX.

UBX will thus boost the direct tech capability of AEV, complementing the group’s newly launched Singapore-based DSAI arm, Aboitiz Data Innovation.

Also, UBX can play a crucial role in public-private partnership projects since digitalization is high on President Marcos’ agenda. For instance, Aboitiz InfraCapital, in partnership with UBX and Unisys, has an existing P1-billion unsolicited proposal to digitize the claims process of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

UnionBank’s sale of UBX to AEV is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla
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