‘Back to square one’ for MPIC as new appraiser sought
The privatization plan for infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp. suffered a setback as the consortium of buyers seek a new third-party valuation provider to allay conflict-of-interest concerns amid protests from minority stockholders and fund managers that the P4.63 per share offer price was too “low.”
Metro Pacific chair and CEO Manuel Pangilinan, who is among the group of bidders that include major shareholders and Japan’s Mitsui, told reporters on Tuesday they were close to selecting a new independent adviser, whose opinion will provide the basis for the final offer price.
This will delay the proposed tender offer and delisting from the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), but Pangilinan said they still hope to complete the entire process within the year.
“The bidders have to appoint a new independent adviser [so] the bidders are back to square one,” Pangilinan said on the sidelines of the company’s annual stockholders’ meeting on Tuesday.
He suggested there was pushback from regulators on the independence of their original third-party valuation provider, which was also selected from a list of PSE-accredited firms.
Under the PSE’s rules for delisting, tender offer bidders should price the shares higher than the value determined via a fairness opinion prepared by an independent valuation provider and the company’s average price over the past year.
Pangilinan said their valuation provider had done extensive work in the past for Metro Pacific, its major shareholders and even himself. He declined to name the company. There are 13 companies which were accredited by the PSE to provide fairness opinions and valuation reports.
Pangilinan said one or two firms out of the 13 that might be acceptable to the PSE and they were currently vetting these.
“Most of them have done work for us. We’re a big group,” Pangilinan said. Pangilinan said they were delisting the infrastructure giant since its full value was not reflected in the share price. Shares of Metro Pacific, which owns utilities such as Meralco and Maynilad Water Services, rose 0.45 percent to P4.46 each.
Even before the company’s stockholders meeting on Tuesday, Metro Pacific announced it would defer the vote on delisting pending the release of the final valuation report.
Nora Barja, who was among the minority stockholders who confronted management about the lowball offer on Tuesday, said she would lose money at the current offer price. INQ