Peddling lies about Meralco

SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2014 - 12:00am

Self-styled power industry experts continue to peddle conspiracy theories supposedly between distribution utility firm Meralco and generation companies instead of offering their so-called expert advice in helping find ways to mitigate the power situation and prevent “dark days” from engulfing the country. At the end of the day, it will still boil down to the law of supply and demand, plus the fact that climate change can cause power sources such as hydro to dwindle, compelling power companies to rely on the more expensive fossil fuels. 

In any case, the new management has been working to improve their service to consumers via facility upgrades and other initiatives, and is looking at investing in the power generation business to meet the growing demand and beef up its supply especially during traditional peak-demand summer months. That’s one of the reasons why Meralco was able to slash the electricity bills of some 5.4 million Metro Manila consumers this May.

It’s ironic that among the noisiest critics of Meralco is someone who reportedly mismanaged a power generation business, allegedly terminating employees illegally and engaging in fraudulent acts for which he is facing a bankruptcy case with a major bank. Several observers remarked that rather than raising a howl over the joint ventures that Meralco has engaged in with foreign and local groups on coal-fired and liquefied natural gas power projects, other big time investors should be encouraged to take their cue from the distribution company and funnel their cash into power generation ventures that would go a long way in helping stabilize the country’s electricity supply in the long run.

We’re told Meralco has asked for the postponement of the Pagbilao plant’s scheduled maintenance shutdown until after summer is over so as not to further aggravate the current tight supply in the Luzon grid. Big users such as SM, Ayala and Robinsons malls have also agreed to disengage from the Meralco grid and use their own back-up generation sets whenever supply reaches a critical level to ensure a continuous and reliable supply of power to small businesses and ordinary households.

The Department of Energy’s forecast regarding energy supply indicates a shortfall in one or two years, unless new power plants become operational to augment the supply requirements by then. Critics should put their money where their mouth is and urge other companies to invest in new facilities and become part of the solution – and not add to the power problem. 


Norway invests in Phl, Asian markets

Huge equity mandates from Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management are being handed out for the past few months to Southeast Asian markets, among them the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam that will be getting about $200-$300 million each, with sources disclosing that Manila-based Maybank ATR KimEng Asset Management was handed the Philippine equity portfolio.


Norges manages the Government Pension Fund of Norway, said to be the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and the biggest single investor in the world with an investment portfolio estimated at $850 billion. Norway’s wealth comes primarily from its oil, and over the years, the Norwegian government has been investing its money into a fund with interests in various industries such as oil and gas, palm oil, mining, cattle, timber and paper, among many others. It owns about 1.3 percent of the world’s stocks with prime real estate properties in several cities in Europe. According to reports, the sovereign wealth fund saw a return of $115 billion or almost 16 percent on its investments.


Not many Filipinos know that the Norwegian pension fund owns equity from close to 40 Philippine companies with an estimated value of P24 billion, and that its investments in various industries include some of the biggest in the Philippines.  The pension fund was established in 1990 as a fiscal policy vehicle to support the long-term management of Norway’s oil revenues, with Norges Bank managing the fund on behalf of Norway’s Ministry of Finance which ultimately makes Norwegian citizens the real owners of the wealth fund.


Ex-AG&P chair indicted

Former AG&P chairman Joseph “Joe” Sigelman has been indicted by a Federal grand jury in New Jersey for fraud, conspiracy to launder money, bribing foreign officials in Colombia and engaging in a kickback scheme by using his Philippine account to deposit the kickback. Sigelman’s arrest early in January shocked the Filipino business circle since the business whiz was noted for turning around the moribund modular firm AG&P and making it profitable.


The Princeton graduate was a former CEO of British Virgin Islands oil and gas company PetroTiger that had presence in Colombia. According to the FBI, Sigelman and cohorts allegedly bribed Colombian officials to secure contracts worth $39 million, hiding the bribes by depositing the money in the bank account of the official’s wife – supposedly for “consulting services” she provided which of course were non-existent. Sigelman is also accused of taking kickbacks for negotiating the sale of another company on behalf of PetroTiger, hiding the kickback deal by having the payments deposited directly to his bank account in the Philippines – giving the operation the codename “Manila Split.”


According to observers, the indictment – which came after a series of extensions by US authorities – is an indication that attempts at plea bargaining have failed. The next chapter in Sigelman’s saga is most likely a trial. We also received information that our local NBI and BIR are allegedly looking into local investors who might have been exposed to Sigelman’s “interesting” business practices.


Email: spybits08@yahoo.com.

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