Bobby Ongpin riding high with the wind

SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - October 30, 2014 - 12:00am

After reaching an amicable settlement with the Ashmore Group that took almost two years of intense negotiations, businessman Bobby Ongpin is riding high with the wind as he looks forward to more projects for the now private Alphaland Corp. Assets transferred to the Ashmore Group include the Alphaland Tower along Ayala, the Marina Club project, 50-percent ownership of the Alphaland Bay City project and 60-percent ownership of the Boracay Gateway joint venture project. Alphaland retains ownership of the Balesin Island Club, the Alphaland Makati Place plus the City Club, the Alphaland Southgate Tower along EDSA and the Baguio Mountain Lodges project. 

Following the disengagement with the Ashmore Group, Alphaland’s net worth is still a very robust P37 billion – making it one of the most substantial property firms with a solid financial base and a comfortable debt-equity ratio of 24-76.

Truth be told, Alphaland’s delisting from the Philippine Stock Exchange has turned out to be more boon than bane because it gives the company more flexibility to operate. A financial analyst told us RVO never really needed the PSE, and that it should not have been listed in the first place since its projects had been mostly financed by equity from the UK-based Ashmore Group and Bobby himself – without need to use the PSE to raise funding.

Now that the Ongpin group owns over 90 percent of Alphaland, it can move without having to be encumbered by the 10- percent minimum public ownership requirements for a publicly listed company. As noted by Ongpin, Alphaland can tap both domestic and local sources to raise money for future expansion, either in the form of equity or debt. Besides, the company just acquired an additional (and readily available) fund of P2.5 billion as part of the settlement deal with the Ashmore Group.

We are told by some of our investment banker-friends in Singapore, a number of foreign investors are lining up to buy equity into Alphaland, especially now that it’s privately owned. They are so impressed with the Balesin Resort Club and the City Club, having seen for themselves the world-class facilities of both the very private and exclusive clubs.

Bloomberry on a winning streak

Port King Enrique “Ricky” Razon’s Bloomberry Resorts Corp. continues to be on a winning streak, emerging as the most active stock in the market over the weekend, climbing 2.2 percent to P15.02 with a value turnover of P545 million, continuing to perform well with expectations that share prices could kick even higher after a planned acquisition of a casino in South Korea is now pushing through.

A lot of foreign investors are looking at the Philippine gaming industry, with the interest spurred by news that Caesars Entertainment wants to be the first major international gaming brand in the country, with plans to build a $1-billion casino complex at the PAGCOR Entertainment City complex along Roxas Boulevard. PAGCOR chairman Bong Naguiat, however, has recently announced that it is planning to raise the minimum required capital for new operators by 50 percent – which means Caesars and other interested companies will have to spend at least $1.5 billion to get a foothold in the Philippines, which is emerging as a gateway to the very profitable gaming market in Asia.

According to Bong Naguiat, the plan to hike the minimum capital requirement is to ensure that those planning to invest really have deep pockets and will be here for the long term. Of course, there is no question Bloomberry Corp.’s Solaire Casino and Resort has become one of the hottest investments, described by Forbes as a “quantum leap beyond Manila’s other gaming options” and comparable to Macau and Las Vegas standards especially with the new management team led by former Marina Bay Sands CEO and now Solaire president and COO Thomas Arasi.

Everyone knows Ricky Razon is never one for those “quick buck” schemes, always looking at the long term – which is why ICTSI has become a global name in the container port and terminal business.

British security gets a bump

Heads will probably roll at Scotland Yard after that “shoving” incident involving a 28-year-old jogger who was able to breach the security detail of British Prime Minister David Cameron, almost colliding with the PM.

While Cameron laughed off the incident, even thanking his security team for the “good job that they do,” the incident has opened a slew of criticism from the public considering the increased threat level from terrorists. In fact, the jogger – who admitted having been unnerved by the experience – said he had no idea why half a dozen men in suits suddenly tackled him to the ground, “haranguing” him and demanding his identity – since he didn’t see any security cordon while jogging.

“How good is security if I managed to run between them before they stopped me,” the man said, insisting that he only found out that the man he ran into was the British Prime Minister an hour after the police released him. Some politicians are demanding a full investigation into the “security breach,” saying the consequences could have been more serious considering the increased terror threat level in the UK which is now at “severe” – just one step lower than the highest which is at “critical.”

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Email: spybits08@yahoo.com.

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