Owners selling Inquirer to Ang

(The Philippine Star) - July 17, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines - Repeatedly vilified and threatened with lawsuits by President Duterte, the majority owners of the Philippine Daily Inquirer have decided to sell their 85 percent stake to one of his backers, Ramon Ang of the San Miguel Group.

The Inquirer Group of Companies, in a statement yesterday, said its chair Marixi Rufino-Prieto had “resumed discussions” with Ang for the sale of her family’s interest and majority share in the Inquirer.

“I have accepted the offer of the Prieto family to invest in the Inquirer Group. I am looking forward to be part of this venerable institution and work with the men and women who made it what it is now,” Ang said in a statement.

“The publication will continue to uphold the highest journalistic standards and make a difference in the society it serves,” he added.

The Inquirer Group said the Prieto family has been in talks with Ang – who has been described as the family’s “longstanding friend and business partner” – regarding the sale since 2014, with discussions restarting early this year after the Prieto family completed its annual review of business plans.

“The due diligence review on the Inquirer Group will be undertaken soon by Mr. Ang,” the Inquirer Group said.

The Prietos’ decision to divest after 25 years is seen as a strategic business move that could maximize growth opportunities for the Inquirer Group.

“The family is confident that Mr. Ang will uphold the Inquirer Group’s commitment to pursuing the highest standards of journalism. His investments and business expertise will unlock added value in the Inquirer Group’s newspaper publication, internet communications, social media, corporate skills training, radio broadcasting and logistics delivery,” the Inquirer Group said.

Ang currently is president and chief operating officer of San Miguel Corp. (SMC), a conglomerate with business interests in food, packaging, infrastructure, beer, liquor, fuel and oil, and power.

Market analyst Luis Limlingan expressed belief that just like MVP Group chair Manuel Pangilinan, Ang is also interested in building his own media empire.

“RSA previously wanted to build a telecom through Telstra and made a bid for GMA,” he said, referring to Ang by his initials.

Ang a few years ago was reported to have held discussions with shareholders of GMA-7 Network for a minority interest in the television network, but a deal did not materialize.

Last year, Ang’s SMC and Australia’s biggest telco company, Telstra Corp., ended negotiations over a planned joint telecommunication venture in the Philippines.

“Unless RSA has any groundbreaking strategy, I don’t see the print industry taking flight short term (should he take over the Inquirer Group). Maybe in the long term,” Limlingan said.

PDI had been a constant target of Duterte’s expletive-laced speeches, accusing the daily of besmirching his name without basis and of being on the take from opposition politicians.

He threatened to get back the 2.9-hectare Mile Long property in Makati City that was leased to Sunvar Realty Development Corp. owned by the Prieto and Rufino families.

The President said he wanted the government property sold and the proceeds used to finance low-cost housing projects.

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