Biz Buzz: Talk to the hand

The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) recently revived talks on the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) through a forum with industry representatives and invited government officials. However, the absence of a representative from the Department of Finance, which plays a crucial role in addressing tax-related rules acceptable to the market to get REITs launched, was something of a concern.

“Frustrating,” PSE director Ma. Vivian Yuchengco said as she left at the end of the forum. “No DOF there.”

Asked later whether private stakeholders were left to talk among themselves, PSE president and CEO Hans Sicat paused shortly and quipped, “Well, there was somebody from BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue]. Maybe that’s a step in the right direction.” He also noted the presence of Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Teresita Herbosa, who later told reporters that her office was open to PSE’s proposals on rules related to how many shares of REIT companies must be offered to the public.

Tax rules are under the BIR’s purview, of course.

With the economic team trying to improve the country’s rating profile through improved tax revenue collection and other means, market players argued that the tax provisions and the manner of collection being proposed make REIT investments unattractive. Yet reports, including one by state-owned think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies, have shown that the government can “more than recover” what appears to be foregone revenue if the tax rules for REIT were eased to get the initial public offerings, or IPOs, started.

Sicat said the PSE would continue to talk to regulators and added that he hoped the private sector and the government could find a “reasonable” middle ground. “Otherwise, we could miss out on capital,” he said. “Maybe we just need to explain it to DOF better.”—Riza Olchondra

Metrojet lands in Clark

Never mind that more prestigious legacy airlines continue to prefer operating out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport rather than Clark.

The latter has enough on its plate, and more operators are coming in.

The latest addition to Clark’s growing portfolio of aviation locators is Metrojet Engineering Clark Ltd.—a new maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility designed to augment both heavy and line maintenance capabilities of Hong Kong-based business jet operator Metrojet.

Set to start operations on Tuesday, the Clark facility is the first overseas venture for the company and will mark the beginning of an international expansion for Metrojet. Metrojet is widely known, of course, as the “air taxi” of choice of wealthy businessmen from around the Asia-Pacific who want to avoid spending a king’s ransom on buying and maintaining their own private jets.

The company operates several private jets from the smaller Gulfstreams to Global Express models (President Aquino’s plane of choice, of late) to the outsized Boeing Business Jet (basically a 737 outfitted with only 24 seats).

Metrojet’s new facility will allow the company to take advantage of the widely publicized growth forecasts for business aviation in Asia, and its facilities will be housed in more than 20,000 square feet of hangar space and an office building (because it’s cheaper to park airplanes in Clark than in Hong Kong’s pricey Chek Lap Kok).

Unknown to many, Metrojet is a sister company of the prestigious Peninsula Hotels group.

So don’t be surprised if you find Clark buzzing with activity—in the air and on the ground—all of a sudden.—Daxim L. Lucas

Speaking for which…

Budget carrier Air Asia is apparently dead serious in its drive to penetrate the Philippine market at the expense of its local rival that flies orange and green colors.

And this rivalry extends not only to the airline business, but also into hotel operations.

In fact, the latest branch of Tune Hotels—a budget hotel owned by the Malaysian budget carrier giant—is now in the final stages of being outfitted in Makati City, specifically in the P. Burgos St. area, which budget-conscious tourists frequent.

The building, painted in the company’s trademark red and white colors, is the latest addition to the growing number of Tune Hotels, after its flagship branch opened right outside the Clark International Airport’s perimeter fence in Angeles City.

Other Tune Hotel branches can be found in Cebu City and Manila’s Ermita district.

The Makati branch will open on July 17 with 213 rooms, and all told, the four properties will have a total of 695 rooms.

According to our source, the next batch of hotels to open in the second quarter of next year will be located at the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Davao, as well as in Ortigas in Pasig City, and Timog Ave. in Quezon City.

Of course, Tune Hotels can always say that the budget airline-budget hotel tandem business model was pioneered by them.—Daxim L. Lucas

Security Bank aces it again

Finance Asia, a leading financial publication, announced the winners of its 12th annual poll on Asia’s Best Managed Companies, naming Security Bank Corp. as the Philippines best mid-cap company.

Security Bank bested four other companies, namely: Aboitiz Equity Ventures and RCBC, with Vista Land and Megaworld tying for fourth place.

The annual poll recognizes companies’ excellence in various categories—best medium capital, most committed to a strong dividend policy, best corporate governance, and best investor relations. The poll engages the participation of investors and analysts voting for the best companies in Asia.

Naturally, Security Bank chief Alberto Villarosa beamed with pride, saying the award validated the bank’s efforts “to consistently deliver excellence in all aspects of our service and operations.”

“We are honored to be recognized among the best not only in the banking industry but among the best companies in the Philippines and across Asia,” he said.

He attributed this accomplishment to the continued trust, support and confidence of the bank’s customers and business partners and to the commitment, dedication and execution skills of management and staff.

Recently, the bank received the Cesar EA Virata Award as the “Best Securities House” for the seventh consecutive year during the 2012 Philippine Dealing System Group Annual Awards.

Now if only everyone in the banking industry behaved as well.—Daxim L. Lucas

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