BizBuzz: Charity commission
While tax men are having a tough time meeting revenue targets, the National Telecommunications Commission has been giving out multimillion-peso discounts on fees to telcos and equipment providers.
For example, the NTC, out of its munificent heart, granted a P70-million discount to bankrupt Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T), which went belly up after failing to adapt to cellular technology two decades ago.
The NTC Rates and Regulation Division initially assessed that PT&T had amassed P207.244 million in supervision and regulatory fees (SRF) for more than a decade. Surprisingly, the NTC legal officer slashed this to P137.137 million without securing the commission’s approval. The Commission on Audit questioned the deal in its report in February.
Another beneficiary of the NTC’s charity is Express Telecom, whose SRF initially reached P143.009 million. But it only paid P9.914 million directly to the NTC’s regional office.
NTC’s generosity also extended to mobile phone providers that waived or reduced the one-time registration fee of P100 for mobile phones with bluetooth or wi-fi capability—trifle change to an industry that rakes in billions of pesos a year.
These fees have been a veritable gold mine for the government, seeing P294.112 million in revenue last year (about a six-fold hike in just five years). So why kill the goose that lays the golden egg?
We should probably ask the NTC commissioner, who shares the name of a “Hyatt 10” member rewarded with a cushy post in this administration and who has been “acting” like the owner of the joint. At the rate the NTC is going, it should be renamed National Telecommunications Charity.—Gil Cabacungan
Alphaland Corp.’s new Balesin Island Club resort is all the rage among the well-heeled nowadays, but that hasn’t stopped the firm’s honcho, Bobby Ongpin, from using some unique marketing methods to sell his project.
One such method is a regularly e-mailed update on the project, which features notes and musings from the colorful (to put it mildly) businessman himself. Usually, the innocuously named “Balesin Update” contains thinly disguised sales pitches for the upscale resort. Ongpin also includes tantalizing snippets like “I’m writing you this e-mail from the white sand beach,” or such.
But the latest update was unique in that the first half of the letter contained what sounded like a rant by the businessman on how the sheer number of visitors had forced Alphaland to take on a Bombardier Q400 chartered from AirPhil Express, replacing the two nine-seater Cessna Grand Caravans that used to ply the Manila-Balesin.
The larger plane now allows the Mediterranean-themed resort to be fully populated on weekends. But Ongpin laments—and strikes an almost apologetic tone—that his “de buena familia” clientele has to temporarily bear with the tedious check-in procedures and long lines at Naia Terminal 3 (“until we can accredit our Alphaland hangar for passenger boarding,” he adds).
And with the typical Bobby Ongpin panache that his critics have come to hate, he tells Balesin’s clients that the chartered flights, which cost the company P300,000 per cycle, “will fly even if you’re the only one on board.” Impressive.—Daxim L. Lucas
Digging for gold
Shares of Alcorn Gold Resources Corp. recently sizzled due to speculation that the group of Chinoy businessman Lucio Co would turn it into a holding firm for new businesses.
Pundits theorized that what would be infused would be Co’s beverage business—the distribution of several imported liquor brands such as Spanish brandy Alfonso.
But is there any truth to this, even as APM (Alcorn’s ticker tape code) itself has repeatedly denied having knowledge of any upcoming equity deals? Vincent Co, Lucio’s eldest son and director at the Co family’s flagship Puregold Price Club, told BizBuzz Tuesday that while the group owned the liquor business, there was no plan yet on the table for APM.
Yes, he asked his dad about it and, as what the recent disclosures had said, there was really nothing. He noted that APM was the subject of recurring speculative plays. At one time, it was even rumored to be a prospective backdoor listing vehicle for Puregold, which instead went public the old-fashioned way.
But some people were busy hoarding shares of APM, calling up investors and offering to buy their shares, which only created more excitement on the stock. But whether APM would eventually go the way of AAI (now Bloomberry), Tanduay (soon to be LT Group) and East Asia Power (now Century Properties) and become a beverage player remains to be seen.—Doris C. Dumlao
Zest for tourism
While businessman Alfredo Yao is working on the public debut of his banking unit Philippine Business Bank and talking to prospective investors in budget carrier Zest Airways, he is also busy building up his tourism-oriented real estate portfolio in support of the country’s “More Fun in the Philippines” campaign and to complement his airline business.
Earlier this year, Yao bought the 100-room luxury resort Club Panoly in Boracay. He then harnessed traffic in Zest Air’s Manila-Kalibo-Incheon flights to pre-sell rooms at the hotel, thus generating cash while doubling the hotel’s capacity without additional outlays.
An industry source said the businessman also acquired a new property adjacent to the Bohol Beach Club on Panglao Island. Likewise, he is looking to set up a resort in Palawan.—Doris C. Dumlao
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