Ongpin declares war on Ashmore

SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2014 - 12:00am

Businessman Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin had a good partnership going with London-based private equity firm Ashmore Group for many of the upscale projects of property developer Alphaland Corp. such as Alphaland Tower, Makati Place (where the tony and exclusive City Club is located), the planned Marina Club and the world class Balesin Island Club off the coast of Quezon province. After seven years of partnership however, Ashmore suddenly decided to part ways with Bobby Ongpin, also known as RVO, making it clear to the businessman that the UK group will stop the funding for many of the projects of Alphaland.

Not to be daunted by that hiccup, the business tycoon put in his personal funds to invest in the development projects and continue the finishing touches for many of the developer’s flagship projects, most notable of which is Balesin which has become a byword among the wealthy and privileged who appreciate the utmost privacy offered by the exclusive resort with themed villages patterned after the world’s best tourist destinations.

RVO had offered to buy out the shares of Ashmore but for some reason, the deal didn’t work out, with several buyers also expressing interest to acquire the London group’s 40 percent stake in Alphaland.  In the holding structure summary provided by Ashmore, it indicated that their shares in Alphaland are through two entities, namely Alphaland Holdings-Singapore (AH) and Masrickstar, in addition to 2.5 percent holding of Credit Suisse. RVO however has proceeded to eventually dilute Ashmore’s shares with him now owning 50.8 percent of Alphaland.

According to sources, the parting of ways was triggered by disagreement on several issues including a heated exchange of emails between Ongpin and a certain Ashmore executive on whether the London-based group has a vote on Alphaland’s plans for fundraising. It would seem the tiff is not over with sources informing us Alphaland will be filing a complaint of misrepresentation against Ashmore, alleging that the latter had provided misleading information on the sale of 49.6 million common shares of Ashmore (on behalf of AH) in December 2012 to Credit Suisse Singapore Limited (CSSL). It can be recalled that Alphaland had increased its public float to comply with the PSE’s minimum requirement for public ownership through the said sale.

According to the complaint, Alphaland has recently come across information that the sale was simulated – meaning AH is still the owner of the 49 million shares supposedly sold to CSSL and that Ashmore misrepresented this fact to Alphaland to make sure that the latter remains listed with the Philippine Stock Exchange – which could result in the company being declared as non-compliant with the 10 percent minimum public ownership requirement. 

“Pursuant to information knowingly and deliberately provided by Ashmore on Jan. 2, 2013, Alphaland unwittingly misrepresented a fact to the PSE and SEC on Jan. 3, 2013. Having recognized the wrong done, Alphaland believes it should now make this disclosure to the PSE,” the company said in its letter to the Philippine Stock Exchange

Expect the feisty Bobby Ongpin to mount this full-scale war against his former partner without let-up.

More delays, more losses

If Secretary Jun Abaya wants people to stop accusing the DOTC of turning President Noy Aquino’s flagship PPP (private-public partnership) projects into mere “Power Point Presentations,” he better get things rolling in his department. Here we go again with the delay of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) that got the green light from the National Economic and Development Authority after already numerous delays in the country’s first airport PPP project with the bidding process having gone on for over a year now.

The bidding was finally conducted in November and the notice of award was supposed to have been given early this year to the consortium of Megawide-GMR Infrastructure that submitted the best bid among seven prequalified bidders, but the losing consortium of Filinvest-Changi Airports International is questioning the qualification of the winning bidder – resulting in further delay for this crucial project. Many believe the bidding process was conducted in a fair and transparent manner by the DOTC – which should have given the other players (who all passed the prequalification stage) several opportunities to seek clarifications and raise any issues with the DOTC and the Prequalification Bids and Awards Committee.

There was plenty of time to question the qualifications of GMR during the process, but as usual, losers only raise objections and protest the result if things don’t go their way – a delaying tactic that only serves to derail a significant project not only for Cebu and the Visayas region but the country, observers noted. Airports are important gateways that can positively impact the economy but unfortunately, our airports are nowhere near the world class category and in fact, have been given the dubious distinction of being among the world’s worst. How can the Department of Tourism hit its target of 10 million visitors by 2016 if our airports are congested, decrepit and do not offer comfort and convenience to both local and international travelers?

MCIA is the country’s second busiest airport and has a lot of potential to contribute to the country’s coffers considering that Cebu and other areas in the Visayas region are important investment and tourism destinations.   However, Cebu is still reeling from the impact of two major disasters last year – an earthquake and a super typhoon – which makes immediate implementation of the airport PPP project even more critical than ever, some Cebu businessmen informed us, saying they are looking forward to the 2015 APEC summit with Cebu most likely to host several ministerial meetings with over 3,000 delegates. More delays will only mean more lost opportunities, the businessmen stressed.


Email: spybits08@yahoo.com

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