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Ang divests in Manila North Harbor

Sells 35% stake to Razon’s ICTSI

MANILA, Philippines — Tycoon Ramon Ang has decided to exit Manila North Harbor Port Inc. (MNHPI), which has been at the center of a long-running father-and-son feud between construction magnate Reghis Romero II and his estranged son Michael.

Petron Corp., led by Ang, sold its 35-percent stake in the 56-hectare MNHPI to billionaire Enrique Razon’s International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), six years after acquiring it in January 2011 from Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC).

For Razon, already a mammoth ports tycoon, the acquisition further strengthens his presence in the local ports industry which he already dominates.

MNHPI is located at the North Harbor in Tondo, Manila while Razon’s Manila International Container Terminal lies between the North and South Harbors.

Prior to the share sale agreement, MNHPI was 65 percent owned by Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc., (HCPTI) a company owned by the Romero family and 35 percent owned by Petron.

Petron’s exit comes months after a Quezon City Regional Trial Court issued on Jan. 5 an order that barred the younger Romero from claiming ownership of HCPTI, the majority shareholder of MNHPI.

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The court ruled in favor of the elder Romero who sued his son for allegedly falsifying ownership of the port facility.

In separate disclosures yesterday, Petron and ICTSI announced the share purchase agreement priced at P1.75 billion.

Under the agreement, ICTSI will acquire Petron’s 10.5 million shares in MNHPI — equivalent to 34.83 percent of the port’s outstanding shares.

 “The completion of the sale purchase agreement is subject to several conditions, including approval of the transaction by the Philippine Ports Authority,” said Joel Angelo Cruz, Petron vice president and corporate secretary.

Cruz said the company would focus on its core business.

Originally, Ang wanted to use the port for the establishment of fuel tanks to serve Petron’s requirements and the grains terminal and bulk cement silo for San Miguel’s needs.

ICTSI, meanwhile, said the transaction would allow ICTSI to contribute its experience, expertise and state-of the-art technology and infrastructure to enhance the operational efficiency of the domestic terminal in the port of Manila and improve the traffic condition in Metro Manila.

Ang had previously expressed concerns on the long-running feud and industry sources said this may have prompted him to just stay away.

“It was a business decision. It would be difficult for Petron, which is a listed company, to explain to shareholders its association with feuding owners of the North Harbor,” said a source.

Razon’s move to acquire a 35 percent stake in MNHPI is seen complementing his existing ports operations.

 “ICTSI handles container cargo, while MNHPI is for bulk cargo so there’s no conflict,” an industry source said.

Eventually, the source said, Razon may acquire the entire company if Romero decides to exit as well.

No further comments from Razon or his representatives were available as of press time yesterday.

The deal is still subject to the approval of the Philippine Ports Authority, a government-owned corporation that manages the port of Manila.

The port of Manila has three facilities — the Manila North Harbor, the Manila South Harbor which is operated by Asian Terminals Inc. and ICTSI’s Manila International Container Terminal.

Sought for comment, Philippine Competition Commission commissioner Stella Quimbo said the parties would also need to seek the approval of the PCC.

“As of today, ICTSI and North Harbor have not filed a notification with PCC. If they breach the P1 billion threshold, then they are required to notify,” she said.

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