BIZ BUZZ: More coconuts for MVP

It seems that the coconut is indeed a giant nut for billionaire Manuel V. Pangilinan.

After acquiring a 34.76-percent stake in coconut product manufacturer Axelum Resources Corp. for P5.3 billion last year, the tycoon who chairs Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) is eyeing yet another coconut-focused firm.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the renewal of Axelum’s multiyear supply deal with global coconut water brand Vita Coco last week, Pangilinan said they were looking at several agriculture-related companies.

“One is related to coconuts,” he said.

“It’s a primary agricultural product in the country, so a great deal of its byproducts are exportable,” Pangilinan explained when asked about his interest in coconuts.

It’s worth noting that Axelum reported a core net loss of P158 million last year from a net profit of P983 million in 2022 due to “pandemic-induced shipping crisis,” resulting in slower demand.

For their part, Axelum chair and CEO Romeo Chan said this was only a “blip in our history because our performance in 2017 to 2019 has been going up,” adding that his company already returned to profitability in the first quarter of this year.

The loss did not halt the deal with Vita Coco, as Axelum is expected to provide supply for the global brand beyond 2030.

Pangilinan himself said MPIC’s investment was still worth it.

“It’s a key industry for the country. [Axelum] has good management, they’re very hands-on,” he said. “It’s one of the best business models because it has dollar-denominated revenues and peso expenses, [resulting in] more foreign currency earnings for the country.”

We’re glued to our seats to see if Axelum will indeed bounce back this year. —Meg J. Adonis

Forza Ferrari, bye Porsche?

Tycoon Ramon S. Ang led the launch last Saturday of the spanking new, state-of-the art showroom on Connecticut Street in San Juan of the Ferrari supercar in the Philippines, heralding a new era in the history of the beloved Italian automotive brand in the country.

Ang, chair of official Ferrari importer and distributor Velocita Motors Inc., said in his speech that owning a Ferrari was “a commitment to excellence.”

He added that he wanted the showroom to be a welcoming place where Ferrari owners can share their passion for the top-tier brand founded in 1929 by Italian racing-car driver, designer and entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari.“We are excited to open the doors of the new Ferrari dealership in the Philippines, where clients and enthusiasts can enjoy and share their passion for great cars,” said Ang, who also heads conglomerate San Miguel Corp. “Let’s create memorable experiences and forge lasting relationships.”

Ang tells Biz Buzz, however, that even as he chairs the group behind Ferrari in the Philippines, he is not about to voluntarily give up his post as head of the official Porsche Club in the Philippines.

“If they want me out, then I’ll go, but if not…” says Ang, who is as known for his passion for cars as his zeal for making big-ticket investments.

In the meantime, Ang is happy to be associated with these luxury automotive brands, be it Porsche, BMW and, of course, Ferrari.—Tina Arceo-Dumlao

DTI, Jollibee partner to skill up MSMEs

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has partnered with Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee to provide a training program for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and empower these businesses, which make up the backbone of the country’s economy.

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said that as many as 50 MSMEs are initially targeted to become part of the training program where business experts from the billion-peso food empire will share their knowledge and expertise.

“This [memorandum of understanding] symbolizes a partnership built on shared values, mutual respect, and a common goal. It is a testament to our collective belief in the private and public sectors in the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the profound impact it can have on individuals, families, and communities,” Pascual said in a statement.

The trade chief said the program would initially run for just one day on April 25, but hinted that it could be expanded depending on the takeup and response from participants. —Alden M. Monzon

Marriott ramps up PH expansion

So far, there’s nothing that’s gonna stop American hotel operator Marriott International Inc. from continuing its aggressive expansion plan in the Philippines, as it seeks to cash in on the revival of demand for travel and tourism from pandemic lows.

Marriott was one of the American companies with ongoing investments in the Philippines that came forward to express desire to expand operations in the country during President Marcos’ recent visit to Washington.

At a dialogue between Philippine economic officials and US investors on April 17, a representative from Marriott said the company planned to “more than double” its presence in the country.

“We currently have 12 hotels across six brands, but we’re expanding rapidly in the Philippines,” the company official was quoted as saying in a press release by the Department of Finance.

“And in our current signed pipeline, we have 16 new hotels … which is just a very exciting time,” the official added.

Before the pandemic hit, Marriott was expecting to have more than 5,000 rooms in the Philippines by end 2024, driven by strong owner demand. Can the company still hit that goal? — Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral INQ