Biz Buzz: Petron woos investors
Leading oil refiner and retailer Petron Corp. sizzled at the stock market last week after market pundits learned that company officials were on an overseas road show. The expectation was that it would be the next entity in the San Miguel group to launch a secondary share sale to comply with the 10-percent minimum public float required by the Philippine Stock Exchange for continued listing. At present, only 8.5 percent of Petron is held and traded by the public.
San Miguel president Ramon Ang confirmed that there were investor briefings abroad for existing common shareholders of Petron. However, he was mum on whether such meetings would be a prelude to an equity deal to widen public float. In the past, he said that all San Miguel units would comply with the PSE ruling on public ownership. Listed firms falling short of the requirement have until November this year to do so.
If and when Petron is able to boost its public float soon, some market pundits believe that like parent San Miguel, the next goal would be to rekindle active investor interest and return to the roster of PSEi. Drumming up interest through the investor briefing is apparently part of this comeback bid.—Doris C. Dumlao
PLDT’s curing period
What was originally thought of as a nuisance case brought to court by CPA-lawyer Wilson Gamboa, a PLDT stockholder, turned out to be a major stock market dampener last week as the Supreme Court directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to probe whether First Pacific-controlled Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. is in violation of the 40-percent foreign capital limit. In determining the extent of allowable foreign ownership, the high court ruled that “capital” will refer only to common shares of stock (being those entitled to vote in the election of directors) and not to the total outstanding capital stock (common and non-voting preferred shares combined).
For those who are curious as to who the three dissenters were in the 10-3 ruling that partly favored petitioner Gamboa, they were Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Roberto Abad.
The SEC, for its part, is set to discuss the PLDT case in a crucial en banc meeting this Wednesday. Based on PLDT’s rebound on Friday after a two-day selldown, the market is anticipating a resolution to this issue. “Hopefully, PLDT is given a curing period so that it won’t affect the PPP (public-private partnership) and foreign investor sentiment,” one foreign fund manager said. No less than the PSE has warned of a capital flight arising from the ruling.—Doris C. Dumlao
Misled by ‘Bali’
We’ve all heard the government trumpet the example of Bali in Indonesia as their model for “open skies” in the aviation sector, right? Well, guess what? It now looks like Bali isn’t exactly the open skies haven that Philippine officials have been portraying it to be. And no less than the Indonesians themselves said so.
According to our source from the two-day Philippine-Indonesian air talks that ended last Friday, the Indonesian panel corrected the impression that they practice open skies especially for flights to Bali. The Indonesian civil aviation officials explained that, on the contrary, their country does not have an open skies policy, not now nor in the past. Foreign airlines have to obtain privileges to serve Bali and all other Indonesian airports in the usual way—through bilateral negotiations leading to reciprocal aviation agreements.
They even reminded the Philippines that Indonesia has refused to ratify several Asean open skies agreements for passenger and cargo flights—a common knowledge in other countries.
So why was Bali in Indonesia cited as a successful model of open skies, when the new open skies policy (Executive Order 29) was signed? The EO was justified as being patterned after the Bali model. Now it’s been disclosed—by the Indonesians, no less—that this is not true. What is the value then of an open skies policy that’s based on false information and illusions?—Daxim L. Lucas
Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez—once in the running to be the country’s next Ombudsman—suddenly withdrew his nomination on the day he was to be interviewed by the Judicial and Bar Council. Whispers of his sudden withdrawal circulated quickly among government and legal circles, some saying it was due to health problems, which he did not want to reveal during the interview.
Some think, however, that there is another reason for his opting out of the Ombudsman race. Two Fridays ago, lawer Manuel Manaligod Jr.—a lawyer at CVC Law (Chavez’s nemesis)—threatened to file perjury charges against Chavez should he follow through with his nomination.
Apparently, the former Solgen had previously sworn under oath that he forbade any party from nominating him to any government post and that he has no interest in any government position. His sudden turnaround by tossing his hat in the Ombudsman ring (or allowing it to be tossed in on his behalf) was claimed to be a violation of these sworn statements.
Well, given the turn of events, looks like in the end, Chavez stuck to his word after all, although we doubt this will satisfy Manaligod and The Firm.—Daxim L. Lucas</strong
NTC returning to the DoTC?
The Commission on ICT was dissolved and transferred to the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) by the Palace for no apparent reason last week, other than to streamline the bureaucracy. The logic behind the move, however, may have something to do with one of the CICT’s attached agencies, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
The CICT, when it was formed in 2004, effectively extracted the NTC from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), leaving the latter with just the “transportation” side of the work.
Our sources say last year, President Aquino had offered to return the NTC to the DoTC, but then Secretary Jose de Jesus declined, saying he had enough on his plate already just handling the transportation part of the DoTC’s operations.
Some now believe that the NTC, which will stay under the Office of the President for the meantime, may be coming back to the DoTC, making the new Secretary Mar Roxas just a little bit more powerful.
After all, the NTC does regulate one of the country’s most lucrative industries. It also holds the fate of the PLDT takeover of Digitel, the biggest corporate deal in the country’s history.—Paolo Montecillo
MVP wants De Jesus back
De Jesus’ “official” reason for leaving the Aquino administration was his desire to return to the private sector.
But really, it’s no secret that De Jesus and Malacañang had conflicting views on how to handle controversial LTO chief Virginia Torres. A position paper by the Office of the Solicitor General recently absolved Torres of any wrongdoing, even after the Department of Justice and De Jesus himself asked the President to discipline her.
Nevertheless, if De Jesus cites his health or the general feeling that he has done “his part” in helping the country, who can blame him? The man has given 25 years of his life serving in various posts in government. At 76, it is surprising that he even took the job at all.
In fact, most of his subordinates will testify to just how energetic De Jesus has been as DoTC boss, who regularly stayed 12 hours in the office every day, spending most of his time holding meetings to make sure everyone under him delivers solid results.
Fortunately for De Jesus, he does not have to retire just yet. One of his old bosses, executive Manuel V. Pangilinan, says the former president of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and Manila North Tollways Corp. is always welcome to come back to the group.
Should De Jesus decide to go back to work after the one-year ban on resigned Cabinet members from returning to private sector work, MVP said: “We’d be more than happy to rehire him.”—Paolo Montecillo
Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.