Biz Buzz: Still in the ballgame | Inquirer Business

Biz Buzz: Still in the ballgame

/ 12:15 AM May 16, 2012

For many basketball fans, the buyout by Dutch dairy giant Royal Friesland Campina (RFC) of a controlling stake in Alaska Milk was a grave concern (especially because the team’s head coach Tim Cone had quit his post shortly before that).

But Wilfred Steven Uytengsu—who remains president/CEO of Alaska Milk Corp. even after his family’s exit—assured fans that they have nothing to fear.


“We’re very much committed to the Aces. As you know, that’s very near and dear to my heart personally, and I want to win our 14th PBA championship sooner rather than later,” Uytengsu told reporters at the sidelines of Alaska’s stockholders’ meeting on Tuesday.

The last PBA crown snagged by Alaska was in 2010 during the PBA Fiesta Conference.


Alaska’s new Dutch owners, Uytengsu said, were likewise “very sports-minded.”

“They are very excited about being involved. They support not just the Alaska [PBA] team, but Alaska’s commitment to youth and sports development. Whether it’s in the PBA, Alaska Power Camp, Alaska Football cup, Alaska Iron Kids, they all see the building and the equity created from our association with sports.”

As long as he’s CEO of Alaska—which Uytengsu says he will be for the foreseeable future—the PBA will be “strategic” to the company which, by the way, will revert to private hands as stock exchange delisting will take place in the third quarter.—Doris C. Dumlao

Awash in cash

Awash in cash from the sale of a controlling stake in Alaska, the Uytengsus must be a lucrative target for deal-makers selling enterprises in need of new investors.

When asked if we’ll see his family invested in another business soon to make the most out of their cash at hand, Wilfred Steven Uytengsu said: “Possibly.”

Uytengsu must also be getting a lot of “value investing” ideas from the “legendary investor” Warren Buffet himself as he attends a forum organized by Berkshire Hathaway every year as part of his continuing professional education.


He said Buffet isn’t a big proponent of tech investing, hence the latter’s lukewarm stance on Facebook’s initial public offering, but would rather go for grassroots-type of investments that are sustainable and have proven business models.

Selling Alaska, which was built by his late father, was a very “emotional” decision for his family. Speaking to the media for the first time since the transaction, Uytengsu noted that he had spent 26 years working for Alaska, 24 of those with his father, Wilfred Uytengsu Sr., who passed away in April 2010.

“I had to really think very deeply about whether or not he would have made the same decision. I don’t know. He did say if you do the right thing, do the fair thing, that’s all you can do,” he said.

In making this deal with RFC, Uytengsu said he believed the family had done the right thing and the fair thing in doing away with the emotional overhang in order to maximize shareholder value.

“We did so without compromising our values,” he said.—Doris C. Dumlao

Worth a thousand texts

There may have been a slew of “text brigade” operations recently aimed at Vice President Jejomar Binay—as well as irritating messages supposedly pretending to originate from his camp—but the future presidential candidate has some tricks of his own.

One such method apparently is to make the vice president more accessible for photo opportunities with people in various events.

Not only is he “game” whenever people ask to pose for vanity shots with him, but his handlers have even developed a system for pleasing those photo op-hungry people who don’t have their cameras with them.

Nowadays, VP Binay travels with his own photographer who has been known to be quite liberal in squeezing off picture after picture with well-wishers, who are then handed slips of paper with the Internet address of a Photobucket online photo-sharing site.

All photos taken for any given public event are then uploaded there by the official photographer for the public to view or download.

So, no camera? No problem!—Daxim L. Lucas

Speaking of which…

Word is going around that the family of DoTC Secretary Mar Roxas II—the powerful Araneta clan—is considering the possibility of monetizing a portion of their crown jewel, the Araneta Center in Cubao, by redeveloping it.

Which portion? No less than the second most recognizable landmark in Cubao after the Araneta Coliseum: Farmers’ Market.

According to our sources, the management of Araneta Center has begun sending feelers to tenants of the venerable and iconic wet market, to see how they feel about the venue’s possible conversion to—hold on to your seats—a high-rise condominium development.

Supposedly, even a survey has been conducted among longstanding tenants to gauge their sentiments about this.

If this pushes through, where will Secretary Roxas shoot his future Mr. Palengke campaign ads? Or will he ditch that image, too, going forward for an image closer to his present Cabinet portfolio? Mr. Infrastructure, perhaps?—Daxim L. Lucas

Uphill climb

The leadership of the Philippine Stock Exchange is wasting no time in trying to get government policymakers and regulators to give the green light to a set of structural reforms proposed by the bourse.

According to our sources, the PSE now wants the Securities and Exchange Commission to approve its long-delayed proposal to allow short selling—the legal kind—in the local stock market.

A proposal to this effect, innocuously named “Securities Borrowing and Lending,” has been on the drawing board since the mid-1990s, but has been consistently opposed for various reasons by various parties.

Back then, legal short selling was opposed by stock brokers themselves (despite many among them practicing it surreptitiously) because, as the argument went, short selling would help drive down stock prices rapidly.

Nowadays, we understand that the opposition to short selling is coming from the SEC, which has adopted a very conservative stance toward market innovation under the present leadership.

As a result, the PSE is one of only three stock markets in the world that will not allow legal short selling.

Another innovation the PSE wants to implement is the introduction of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which will allow investors to invest in securities that mimic the behavior of a stock exchange index.

This is especially useful for foreign investors who may not know their way around specific stocks, but want to participate in the upside of a country’s index.

Finally, the PSE is set to make another push for government to lift its opposition to the long-delayed real estate investment trust, which will help boost the local building sector by bringing in fresh foreign capital.

To this day, however, there seems to be no flexibility on the part of the government, especially with regard to the requirement for REITs to be tax-exempt for the system to work.

Looks like it’s still Square One for financial market innovation, in that case.—Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: Alaska Milk, Basketball, Jejomar Binay, Philippine Stock Exchange, politics, short selling
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