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Monday, February 09, 2004
Philippine Aboitiz Equity's Subic Enerzone allots 100 mln pesos in 2004 capex
Forex-Philippine peso gains on central bank rate hike threat, strong regionals
Philippine trade department projects 6.0 pct exports growth in 2004
Philippines' Arroyo calls on presidential rivals to shun dirty politics
Philippine exchange shareholders seek suspension of private placement plan
Philippine Tobacco Flue-Curing declares 0.50 peso/shr cash div
Philippines' approved investments up 1.7 pct in 2003 to 56.73 bln pesos
Philippine Maynilad creditors object to firm's rehabilitation plan - report
Philippine Jollibee buys majority of Shanghai-based Yonghe King food chain
Philippines' PLDT loses dispute over domain name - report
Philippine central bank warns of tighter monetary measures to stem peso fall

Friday, February 06, 2004
Philippines candidate Poe has more love children in closet - spokesman
Forex - Philippine peso closes weaker despite liquidity tightening
Philippine election body dismisses plea to bar Poe from presidential race
Philippine central bank approves hike in PNB notes offer to 3.8 bln pesos
Philippines end-Jan forex reserves 16.11 bln usd vs 16.87 bln in Dec
Manila shares close higher on bargain-hunting; PLDT leads gainers - UPDATE
Manila shares close sharply higher on bargain-hunting; PLDT leads gainers
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' Piltel firmer on expected financial recovery
Forex - Philippine peso quiet after central bank's liquidity tightening
STOCK ALERT - Philippines Globe firmer on across-the-board bargain-hunting
Manila shares slightly up mid-morning on PLDT gains, bargain-hunting
Philippine leader confident of 10 pct export growth in 2004
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' PLDT firmer on bargain-hunting, ADR gains
Philippines' MBf changes name to IPVG Corp
Philippines PLDT agrees with labor union on new pay package - report
Philippines' San Miguel asks court to free up sequestered shares - report

February 4 - 5 
February 2 - 3

 


 

 
Philippine Aboitiz Equity's Subic Enerzone allots 100 mln pesos in 2004 capex


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Subic Enerzone Corp, a power distributor partially owned by Aboitiz Equity Venture (AEV), will allot 100 mln pesos for its 2004 capital expenditure.
     AEV chief operating officer Erramon Aboitiz said the amount will be used to improve the power distribution system in the Subic Bay economic zone on the main island of Luzon.
     "We will start our capex program soon," Aboitiz told reporters.
     AEV leads a consortium of investors that won the power distributorship business in the free-port zone.
     AEV and Mirant Industrial Power II Corp each has a 20 pct equity in the electricity distributor. Davao Light & Power Corp, an Aboitiz unit, owns 40 pct. San Fernando Electric Light & Power Co has a 10 pct stake, while Pampanga Sugar Development Co and Okeelanta Corp each own 5 pct in Subic Enerzone.
     Subic Enerzone's equity amounts to 100 mln pesos.
     Under the distribution service management agreement, Subic Enerzone reduced power distribution rates 0.4325 peso per kilowatthour to 0.5675 from the previous 1.00 peso per kWh. The rate is fixed for five years.
     The group will also handle the rehabilitation, restructuring and expansion of the distribution system in Subic over a five-year period at an estimated cost of 368 mln pesos.
     (1 usd = 55.87 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Forex-Philippine peso gains on central bank rate hike threat, strong regionals


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The peso regained lost ground against the US dollar in yet another quiet session after the central bank said it could raise key interest rates or increase the reserve requirements of banks further should the local unit's weakness continue, dealers said.
     The peso also tracked relatively strong regional currencies led by the yen against the dollar, they said.
     The peso closed at 55.870 to the dollar after trading in 55.860-55.940 range on volume of 103.50 mln usd. It closed at 55.960 on Friday.
     "The peso was rangebound with the market very cautious following the central bank's comment it may increase interest rates. The regionals were also stronger, including the yen, versus the dollar," a commercial bank dealer said.
     He said the peso could even extend its gains tomorrow, when the campaign season for the May national elections officially starts.
     "The peso may recover to as high as 55.800, with support at 56," the dealer said.
     "The campaign season should not affect the local currency unless something unusual or negative happens."
     Central bank deputy governor Amando Tetangco Jr said the policy-making Monetary Board is prepared to take additional policy action "to make sure orderly financial conditions are maintained and price stability is achieved."
     The central bank, in a surprise move late last week, hiked the liquidity reserve requirement of banks to 10 pct from 8 pct amid inflationary threats arising from the peso's weakness against the dollar.
     The hike is expected to siphon off some 30 bln pesos from banks, thus limiting the funds that they can lend to the private sector and invest in dollars.
     The central bank has also intensified monitoring of dollar transactions by banks and other financial institutions.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine trade department projects 6.0 pct exports growth in 2004


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) expects a moderate recovery in exports this year as it forecasts a full-year growth of 6.0 pct, below the 10 pct rise projected by the central bank and the National Economic and Development Authority.
     The DTI's forecast is conservative compared to the official target, taking into account prospects that shipments to the US and Japan, the country' biggest export markets in the past, will remain limited, according to Board of Investments executive director Elmer Hernandez.
     The government is confident the country will see a 10 pct export growth this year despite last year's tepid 1.5 pct growth, which was below the official target of 5.0 pct and was significantly supported by shipments to Asian markets.
     Local industry leaders admitted that Philippine exports performed poorly compared with its Asian counterparts last year, citing the absence of fresh foreign investments and increasing competition from China.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines' Arroyo calls on presidential rivals to shun dirty politics


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Incumbent Gloria Arroyo called on her five rivals to the Philippines presidency to shun mudslinging on the eve of the 90-day campaign period for the May election.
     The public deserves an electoral campaign based on concrete platforms from the contenders and a "high regard for democratic principles," Arroyo said in a written statement.
     "As the campaign starts tomorrow, I would like to call upon all the candidates to take the high road to prudence, decency and civility in the fight for the vote."
     She said her government is committed to "clean, orderly and honest polls" and that all state agencies would be "at the beck and call" of the elections body to ensure the objective.
     Arroyo, a US-trained economist, is trailing film star Fernando Poe in popularity surveys. She earlier blamed volatility in the exchange rate and the stock market to jitters caused by "excessive politicking".
     Analysts have also blamed Poe's candidacy for the peso's slide, saying the movie star has failed to impress the business community and present an economic platform.
     Elections in the Philippines are often marred by accusations of cheating and intimidation of candidates.
 

 

Philippine exchange shareholders seek suspension of private placement plan


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - A group of shareholders has asked the Philippine Stock Exchange board to suspend a plan to sell more of its shares through a private placement, saying the move requires prior approval from them.
     In a letter to the PSE board, stockholders Roberto Coyiuto Jr, Ismael Cruz, Filomeno Francisco, Eddie Gobing and Trina Kalaw also sought transparency in the proposed private placement.
     There was no mention of the number of shares to be placed.
     The PSE expects to raise 733 mln pesos from the private placement of additional shares at 119.50 pesos each. The move will help the bourse comply with the 20 pct ownership limit for brokers set under the Securities Regulation Code.
     It expects the transaction to increase return on equity and book value as the proposed price represents a price-to-earnings ratio of 48.6 times and a premium over book value of 10 pct.
     However, Coyiuto and his fellow shareholders said in a letter that a number of PSE shareholders believe they should approve the plan first.
     "As a preliminary step, the PSE president should have consulted them (shareholders) in a caucus. A significant number of PSE shareholders do not agree with the said indicative price of 119.50 pesos per share," the letter states.
     "They (shareholders) believe that, compared to the market price, the indicative price represents a huge discount and is detrimental to the interest of the PSE shareholders."
     Under the PSE Revised Rules on Additional Listing of Shares, the Coyiuto group said a transaction, such as a private placement conducted by a listed company, is subject to the approval of its stockholders.
     It claimed that the PSE board and the Securities and Exchange Commission have approved this particular rule, which took effect on Sept 12 last year.
     The group wants the private placement plan presented to PSE stockholders during a meeting scheduled for March 13.
     PSE chairwoman Alicia Morales Arroyo earlier said the exchange may use the proceeds from the placement to acquire a new trading system and as working capital.
     The SEC, on the other hand, has found the indicative price of 119.50 pesos per share "reasonable."
     PSE listed some 9.2 mln of its shares on the local bourse in Dec 2003 as an initial step towards demutualization.
     It was untraded today after closing at 190 pesos previously.
     (1 usd = 55.90 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine Tobacco Flue-Curing declares 0.50 peso/shr cash div


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Tobacco Flue-Curing & Redrying Corp said its board of directors has approved the declaration of a 0.50 peso per share cash dividend to shareholders on record as of March 8.
     Payment will be made not later than April 15.
     The company said the dividend will be taken from its unrestricted retained earnings amounting to 17.5 mln pesos.
     (1 usd = 55.96 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 

Philippines' approved investments up 1.7 pct in 2003 to 56.73 bln pesos


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Investments approved by the Philippine government in 2003 slightly increased 1.7 pct to 56.73 bln pesos on the back of two large projects on renewable energy and mining, the Department of Trade and Industry reported.
     "Investments slightly grew last year despite the global and domestic events such as the Iraq war and SARS during the year," Trade Secretary Cesar Purisima said.
     The Philippine Economic Zone Authority's approved investments was up 3 pct in 2003 to 28.4 bln pesos while those allowed by the Board of Investments dropped 0.04 pct to 28.34 bln pesos.
     Purisima said investments picked up in the second half of 2003 when it posted an increase of 34 pct, offsetting the 29 pct decline in investments in the first half.
     Investments made by Victorias Bionergy Inc worth 4.58 bln pesos and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co amounting to 3.96 bln "made it possible to end the year on a positive note," Purisima said.
     Investments in the electricity, gas and water sector posted an increase to 7.29 bln pesos from 2.71 bln in 2002.
     The biggest rate of increase was seen at the real estate, renting and business activities sector which grew 313 pct to 3.73 bln pesos from 903 mln in 2002.
     (1 usd = 55.96 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Philippine Maynilad creditors object to firm's rehabilitation plan - report


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - At least 14 creditors of Maynilad Water Services Inc have objected to the firm's rehabilitation plan intended to address some 18 bln pesos in debts, the BusinessWorld newspaper reported, citing court documents.
     Maynilad, owned by Benpres Holdings Corp and French firm Ondeo Group, has a 25-year concession agreement with the government to supply water to half of metropolitan Manila.
     The report, citing the creditors' comment submitted before the court, said Maynilad's proposed recovery plan did not take into consideration the company's standby letter of credit, which guaranteed the payment of its concession fees to state-run Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
     MWSS has been trying to tap on the company's 120 mln usd performance bond to cover unpaid concession fees.
     Creditors objecting to Maynilad's rehabilitation plan are Credit Lyonnais, Credit Instriel, ET Commercial, Fortis Bank, KBC Bank NV, ICBC, Bangkok Bank Public Company Ltd, CDC Finance-CDD Ixis, Chang Hwa Commercial Bank Ltd Singapore, Cathay United Bank, JP Morgan, Citibank NA, Chinatrust Commercial Bank and Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.
     (1 usd = 59.60 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Philippine Jollibee buys majority of Shanghai-based Yonghe King food chain


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Jollibee Foods Corp said it has purchased a controlling stake in a Shanghai-based company operating the Yonghe King restaurant chain for 22.5 mln usd, marking its entry into the China market.
     In a statement, Jollibee said it signed in Hong Kong on Friday a deal for the purchase of 85 pct of the issued share capital of Belmont Enterprises Ventures Ltd., the holding company of the Yonghe Group of Companies.
     "This acquisition is a very significant step in our international expansion. It provides us with an opportunity to become a major regional player in the quick service restaurant business in Asia," said JFC chair and CEO Tony Tan Caktiong.
     He added Yonghe King is a strong brand familiar to households in key cities in China.
     Yonghe King operates 77 stores, including 26 in Shanghai, 26 in Beijing, 11 in Shenzhen, eight in Wuhan and six in Hangzhou. Its total sales reached 24 mln usd in 2003.
     Jollibee said the acquisition, made through JFC subsidiary Jollibee International (BVI) Ltd, is expected to boost its systemwide sales by 5.0 pct this year.
     Yonghe Group's founders - Lin Yu Au and Lee Yu Lin who serve as Belmont's CEO and head of marketing and public relations respectively- would retain the remaining 15 pct equity interest and continue working for the company.
     Under the sale and purchase agreement, Jollibee International shall acquire 85 pct of Belmont's outstanding capital for an initial price of 11.5 mln usd.
     A bonus payment will be made by Jollibee to the sellers within the next three years if a certain profit after tax level is achieved. This brings the maximum price, including initial capital, to 22.5 mln usd.
     Jollibee said half of the initial price would be paid using the company's surplus cash, while the balance would be paid by tapping external sources.
     Jollibee, the country's largest fastfood chain, had 988 stores worldwide as of end-2003. With the acquisition of Yonghe King in China, its total number of stores will rise to 1,065.
     (1 usd = 55.96 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Philippines' PLDT loses dispute over domain name - report


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - A Quezon City regional trial court has denied the preliminary injunction request of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) against Gerry Kaimo, the registered owner of the "pldt.com" domain name, the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper reported, citing court documents.
     PLDT has accused Kaimo of infringing on the telephone firm's trade name and for "engaging in unfair competition for using the trade name."
     "After carefully considering and evaluating evidences presented during the hearing and after duly considering the documents adverted to an relevant pleadings including their respective memorandum in so far as they are pertinent to the issue under consideration, the Court finds that the plaintiff (PLDT) has not been able to show its entitlement to the relief prayed for," Branch 90 of the Quezon City court said.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Philippine central bank warns of tighter monetary measures to stem peso fall


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The central bank said it could raise benchmark interest rates or increase the reserve requirements of banks further should the peso's weakness continue.
     The monetary regulator will also focus on ensuring that banks comply with existing foreign exchange rules, central bank deputy governor Amando Tetangco Jr said.
     The central bank, in a surprise move late last week, hiked the liquidity reserve requirement of banks to 10 pct from 8 pct amid inflationary threats arising from the peso's weakness against the US dollar.
     The hike will siphon off some 30 bln pesos from the banking system.
     "The Monetary Board is prepared to take additional policy action to make sure orderly financial conditions are maintained and price stability is achieved," Tetangco said.
     The peso recently fell to its historic low of 56.22 versus the US dollar on lingering economic and political concerns related to the general elections in May.
     The central bank has also intensified monitoring of dollar transactions by banks and other financial institutions.
     Central bank deputy governor Alberto Reyes said some banks have been asked to explain a number of foreign exchange transactions.
     (1 usd = 55.96 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Philippines candidate Poe has more love children in closet - spokesman


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Presidential front-runner Fernando Poe has fathered more children out of wedlock than he has acknowledged, his campaign spokesman said today, while the movie icon shed tears in public.
     Poe publicly admitted earlier this week that he had a 22 year-old son by a 1980s movie starlet, dealing a blow to his public image as a model husband and family man.
     Poe is married to fellow movie star Susan Roces, but they have no children.
     "There are more of them," legislator and Poe spokesman Francis Escudero told GMA television in an interview when asked about rumors that Poe has more than one love child.
     However, he said only Poe could provide the details as "this is entirely a family matter."
     Pressed later, Poe told reporters they should respect other people's privacy.
     "You know, we should not hurt other people," he said, adding in reference to his love children, "They're very private people, we should not hurt them."
     Poe later publicly shed tears as fellow movie stars gathered at a suburban Manila sports club to launch a movement in support of his candidacy.
     "I'm sorry, I'm just so overwhelmed," the 64 year-old action star said as he used his forefinger to wipe away tears behind his gold-rimmed glasses.
     A section of the Filipino electorate say Poe's philandering shows he cannot be trusted with the highest office of the land in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Southeast Asian nation.
     However, this group is not known to comprise the majority. His friend and fellow movie star, Joseph Estrada, who won the 1998 presidential election, but was toppled in a military-backed popular revolt 30 months later, acknowledged siring children by a number of mistresses.
     Philippine law does not allow divorce or abortion, which are both barred by the Catholic Church.
     Filipino bishops said Poe should be given credit for admitting adultery, while stressing that morality is a key component of leadership.
     Poe, touted as the Philippine version of John Wayne, is the standard bearer of the political opposition and has been leading President Gloria Arroyo in opinion polls. Formal campaigning for the May 10 vote begins on Tuesday.
 

 

Forex - Philippine peso closes weaker despite liquidity tightening


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The peso closed slightly weaker versus the US dollar in a relatively quiet session a day after the central bank tightened its monetary policy through a 200-basis point increase in banks' liquidity reserve requirement, dealers said.
     Dealers said the peso is likely to stabilize at current levels following the central bank's measure.
     The peso closed at 55.960 to the dollar after trading between 55.850 and 55.970 on volume of 132.75 mln usd.
     It closed at 55.900 yesterday, recovering sharply immediately after the central bank announced the liquidity reserve hike to 10 pct from 8, which has brought the overall reserve requirement to 19 pct from 17.
     "The reserve hike has removed some pressure on the peso, although its impact has been muted because there's corporate demand for dollars right now. The oil companies are in the market," a commercial bank dealer said.
     The central bank expects the reserve hike to siphon off some 30 bln pesos in liquidity from banks, limiting the funds that they can lend to the private sector or invest in dollars.
     "The peso should stabilize at current levels," a second dealer said.
     Philip Wee, an economist with DBS Bank in Singapore, said the central bank remains under pressure to raise key interest rates.
     "At this point, the Philippine central bank's preference will be to keep policy rates stable ahead of the May elections. In this regard, we don't expect the central bank to hike its overnight rates when its Monetary Board next meets on Feb 12."
     But looking ahead, Wee is not discounting the risk of higher policy rates, given the expected pressure if, and when, the US raises key interest rates.
     "We expect the currency to remain bedeviled by budget woes, disruptive politics and now, inflation fears," he said.
     The campaign period for the May national elections will officially start on Feb 10.
     "Our dollar-peso forecast of 57 by end-2004 is conservative" he added.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine election body dismisses plea to bar Poe from presidential race


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Commission on Election (Comelec) has dismissed a petition to disqualify opposition standard bearer Fernando Poe Jr from the May presidential race.
     The petition, filed by lawyer Victorino Fornier, questioned the citizenship of Poe, a popular movie actor and close ally of ousted president Joseph Estrada.
     The plea was earlier thrown out by the first division of the Comelec, which ruled that the disqualification case lacked merit.
     Comelec commissioner Benjamin Abalos said all five commissioners of the poll body voted to dismiss the motion for reconsideration.
     No further appeal on the issue will be accepted, Abalos added.
     "He did not commit any misrepresentation. As far as he is concerned, he was born as a Filipino. He grew up as a Filipino. So for misrepresentation to exist, there should be a deliberate intention to mislead the people," Abalos said in a television interview.
     Under the Constitution, only natural-born Filipino citizens are allowed to run for president. Although his mother is an American, Poe has insisted he adopted the citizenship of his Filipino father.
     Poe, popularly known as FPJ, has been leading other presidential hopefuls in surveys since he declared his candidacy in late 2003.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippine central bank approves hike in PNB notes offer to 3.8 bln pesos


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The central bank has approved the increase in Philippine National Bank's Tier 2 subordinated debt issue to 3.8 bln pesos from 2.2 bln, central bank deputy governor Alberto Reyes said.
     "This will help improve PNB's capital adequacy ratio to almost 13 pct from 12.6 pct," he told reporters.
     The notes have been rated Ba1 by Moody's Investors Service, which recognized PNB's "systematic, albeit declining importance as one of the largest Philippine indigenous banks by assets as its strong franchise in overseas remittance and its function as the government's depositary institution."
     JP Morgan Securities Ltd is sole arranger of the debt issue, while Multinational Investment Bancorporation and PNB itself are the note selling agents.
     (1 usd = 55.90 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines end-Jan forex reserves 16.11 bln usd vs 16.87 bln in Dec


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The country's gross international reserves (GIR) declined to 16.11 bln usd as at end-January from end-December's 16.87 bln usd due to the government's and central bank's higher debt servicing requirements.
     "Despite the decline, this level of GIR is substantially higher than the full-year 2004 target of 15 bln usd," central bank officer-in-charge Armando Suratos said in a statement
     The end-January GIR was adequate to cover 4.5 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income.
     It is also equivalent to 2.8 times the Philippines' short-term debt based on original maturity and 1.4 times based on residual maturity.
     (1 usd = 55.914 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 


Manila shares close higher on bargain-hunting; PLDT leads gainers - UPDATE


     (Updating with analysts' comments, share prices)
     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed sharply higher led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Corp(PLDT) on across-the-board bargain-hunting following the market's recent steep fall, dealers said.
     Investors largely ignored January's rise in inflation and the central bank's surprising move to raise liquidity reserve requirements to stem inflationary pressure arising from the weakening peso, they said.
     Instead, they re-entered the market after technical charts suggested prices have reached oversold levels despite the absence of any fresh news on the corporate front, dealers said.
     The 30-company composite index closed up 29.74 points or 2.08 pct at 1, 461.53 on 178.5 mln shares worth 895.07 mln pesos. It traded between 1,435.55 and 1,465.49.
     In the broader market, gainers beat losers 36 to 14, with 24 stocks unchanged.
     Top-traded PLDT was sharply higher, up 60.00 pesos at 910 on 318,740 shares.
     Dealers said investors have begun to re-position themselves ahead of the company's 2003 earnings report due out later this month. PLDT will hold investors' briefing on its 2003 performance on Feb 19.
     The country's largest telecom firm is expected to report a net profit of at least 10 bln pesos for 2003 on the back of hefty gains of its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. Dealers said buying sentiment was further strengthened by Wall Street's overnight gains and the subsequent rise of most regional markets.
     PLDT's American Depositary Receipts rose 0.57 usd at 15.50 in New York last night.
     Meanwhile, the peso was relatively quiet in late morning trade, taking a breather from recent volatility, following the central bank's move to tighten its monetary policy through a 200-basis point increase in banks' liquidity reserve requirement.
     The peso averaged 55.914 to the US dollar on volume of 59.75 mln usd at the end of the morning trade, firmer after hitting a historic low of 56.22.
     "Bargain-hunters have returned to the market. Now is the right time to accumulate as share prices have sharply fallen from recent highs," Accord Capital Equities analyst Ron Rodrigo said.
     Regina Capital Development Corp Gomer Tan said the market's rise was largely technical in nature and the rebound was widely expected despite the absence of any major corporate news.
     Second most active Globe Telecom was up 15 pesos at 865 on 202,290 shares on a catch-up play to PLDT.
     Meralco B, available to foreigners, closed up 1.50 at 30 on 2.43 mln shares, while Meralco A was gained 0.50 to 18.75 on 370,600 shares.
     Its parent First Holdings gained 1.50 to 22.75 on 665,000 shares.
     SM Prime gained 0.30 to 6.20 on 9.5 mln shares.
     Ayala Land and parent Ayala Corp shed 0.10 to 5.80 and 5.70, respectively.
     Piltel gained 0,12 to 1.20 at 24.19 mln shares on expectations of a turnaround in its 2004 performance from losses last year.
     Filinvest Land was up 0.04 at 1.06 on 19.65 mln shares.
     The all-shares index was up 4.34 points at 934.29.
     The commercial-industrial index gained 50.01 to 2,239.76.
     Property was up 9.99 at 550.24 while mining gained 9.37 to 1,538.05.
     Oil was unchanged at 1.27.
     Banking and financial services gained 5.00 to 442.42.
     Accord's Rodrigo said the market may continue its recovery on Monday, although any surprises during the weekend may trigger a change in momentum.
     "There could still be a continuation of the gains we had today. Stocks are still at oversold levels," Rodrigo said.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Manila shares close sharply higher on bargain-hunting; PLDT leads gainers


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed sharply higher led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Corp on across-the-board bargain-hunting following the market's recent steep fall, dealers said.
     Investors largely ignored January's rise in inflation and the central bank's surprising move to raise liquidity reserve requirements to stem inflationary pressure arising from the weakening peso, they said.
     Instead, they re-entered the market after technical charts suggested prices have reached oversold levels despite the absence of any fresh news on the corporate front, dealers said.
     The 30-company composite index closed up 29.74 points or 2.08 pct at 1, 461.53 on 178.5 mln shares worth 895.07 mln pesos. It traded between 1,435.55 and 1,465.49.
     In the broader market, gainers beat losers 36 to 14, with 24 stocks unchanged.
     Top-traded PLDT was sharply higher, up 60.00 pesos at 910 on 318,740 shares.
     Dealers said investors have begun to re-position themselves ahead of the company's 2003 earnings report due out later this month. PLDT will hold an investors' briefing on its 2003 performance on Feb 19.
     The country's largest telecom firm is expected to report a net profit of at least 10 bln pesos for 2003 on the back of hefty gains of its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. Dealers said buying sentiment was further inspired by overnight gains in Wall Street and the subsequent rise of most regional markets.
     PLDT's American Depositary Receipts rose 0.57 usd at 15.50 in New York last night.
     Meanwhile, the peso was relatively quiet in late morning trade, taking a breather from recent volatility, following the central bank's move to tighten its monetary policy through a 200-basis point increase in banks' liquidity reserve requirement.
     The peso has averaged 55.914 to the US dollar on volume of 59.75 mln usd at the end of the morning trade, firmer after previously hitting a historic low of 56.22.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

STOCK ALERT - Philippines' Piltel firmer on expected financial recovery


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Pilipino Telephone (Piltel) shares bounced back from extended declines in recent sessions on expectations of a turnaround in its 2004 performance from losses last year, dealers said.
     Although the speculative interest in Piltel on a rumored possible merger with highly-profitable affiliate Smart Communications Inc has eased, dealers said the stock seems to be still seeing support due to its recovery story.
     Piltel was up 0.12 peso, or 11.11 pct, at 1.20 on 23.56 mln shares.
     "If we look at Piltel, there's good news due to its financial recovery," Accord Capital Equities analyst Lawrence de Leon said.
     Piltel rose to as high as 1.94 pesos recently from its end-2003 closing price of 0.88 on continued speculation that it will merge with Smart, the wireless unit of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.
     Early this week, however, a local newspaper reported that the supposed Piltel-Smart merger, which the companies had denied, would no longer go through.
     The merger would have supposedly facilitated Smart's backdoor listing.
     Under its congressional franchise, Smart is required to sell at least 30 pct of its common shares to the public before this August.
     Piltel expects to book a net profit of 402.4 mln pesos this year, after a projected net loss of 3.33 bln in 2003. It reported a net loss of 21.8 bln pesos for 2002.
     Partly owned by PLDT, Piltel sees its wireless GSM subscriber base growing to 3.68 mln at the end of this year from 2.78 mln as of end-2003.
     (1 usd = 55.90 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 

Forex - Philippine peso quiet after central bank's liquidity tightening


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The peso was relatively quiet in late morning trade, with trade rangebound following the central bank's move to tighten its monetary policy through a 200-basis point increase in banks' liquidity reserve requirement, dealers said.
     At 11.10 am, the peso averaged 55.884 to the dollar after trading in the range of 55.850-55.930 on volume of 35.5 mln usd.
     It closed at 55.900 yesterday, recovering sharply immediately after the central bank announced the liquidity reserve hike to 10 pct from 8, which has brought the overall reserve requirement to 19 pct from 17.
     "The reserve hike has removed some pressure on the peso, although its impact has been muted because there's corporate demand for dollars right now. The oil companies are in the market," a commercial bank dealer said.
     The central bank expects the reserve hike to siphon off some 30 bln pesos in liquidity from banks, limiting the funds that they can lend to the private sector or invest in dollars.
     Philip Wee, an economist with DBS Bank in Singapore, said the central bank remains under pressure to raise key interest rates.
     "At this point, the Philippine central bank's preference will be to keep policy rates stable ahead of the May elections. In this regard, we don't expect the (it) to hike its overnight rates when its Monetary Board next meets on Feb 12."
     But looking ahead, Wee is not discounting the risk of higher policy rates, given the expected pressure if, and when, the US raises key interest rates.
     "We expect the currency to remain bedeviled by budget woes, disruptive politics and now, inflation fears," he said.
     "Our dollar-peso forecast of 57 by end-2004 is conservative" he added.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 

STOCK ALERT - Philippines Globe firmer on across-the-board bargain-hunting


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Globe Telecom Inc recovered from losses in early trade, moving in line with other stocks which are now trading higher on across-the-board bargain-hunting, dealers said.
     Positive sentiment spilled over to the country's second largest telecom firm, tracking the hefty gains of competitor Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.
     Globe is now the second most actively-traded stock, up 20.00 pesos at 870 on 91,200 shares.
     Dealers said bargain-hunting had set in after the market's recent sharp fall.
     (1 usd = 55.88 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Manila shares slightly up mid-morning on PLDT gains, bargain-hunting


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices were sharply higher in mid-trade trade, led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co, as investors returned to the market to buy oversold stocks, dealers said.
     Dealers said prices were at bargain levels after recent sharp falls, prompting some bargain-hunting. Overnight gains in Wall Street and the subsequent rise of most bourses in the region also sparked renewed buying interest.
     At 10.41 am, the 30-company composite index was up 19.75 points or 1.38 pct at 1,451.54 on 46.27 mln shares worth 336.44 mln pesos. It has so far traded between 1,435.55 and 1,452.03.
     In the broader market, gainers outnumbered losers 21 to 7 with 17 stocks so far unchanged.
     Top-traded PLDT was up 60.00 pesos at 910 on 183,630 shares on bargain-hunting.
      Meanwhile, concerns following rising inflation in January and the central bank's move to raise banks' reserve requirements have dampened interest in banking stocks, most of which has so far been untraded, even after reporting better-than-expected earnings report for 2003.
     The overall reserve requirement imposed on banks is now at 19 pct from 17 pct previously, following a 2 percentage point increase in their liquidity reserve requirement to 10 pct from 8.
     This means that for every peso deposit placed in banks, 19 centavos is set aside for reserve, limiting the funds which banks can use for lending and other purposes.
     The central bank's monetary policy tightening was however successful in stemming the peso's fall, which has so far averaged at 55.867 pesos to the US dollar, after falling to 56 levels in recent days.
     "The strategy is working for the central bank. It has at the moment stemmed the peso from further weakening as liquidity is mopped off from the system," Regina Capital Securities analyst Gomer Tan said.
     The reserve hike is seen removing from the financial system around 30 bln pesos in excess funds which banks may use to speculate versus the local currency.
     Meralco B, open to foreigners, was up 1.00 at 29.50 on 1.03 mln shares. Meralco A was unchanged at 18.25 on 230,300 shares.
     First Holdings, Meralco's parent firm, gained 1.25 to 22.50.
     Ayala Land and parent Ayala Corp fell 0.10 to 5.80 and 5.70 per share, respectively.
     Globe rose 15.00 to 865.
     Piltel rose 0.10 to 1.18.
     SM Prime was up 0.20 at 6.10.
     Filinvest Land gained 0.04 to 1.06.
     The all-shares index was up 2.15 points at 932.10.
     The commercial-industrial index gained 26.69 to 2,216.44.
     Property was up 5.97 at 546.22 while mining was flat at 1,528.68.
     Oil was unchanged at 1.27.
     Banking and financial services gained 4.94 to 442.36.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Philippine leader confident of 10 pct export growth in 2004


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippines should see 10 pct export growth this year despite a disappointing performance in 2003, the presidential palace said today.
     "The 10 pct projected growth in exports is within reach because of the country's better economic prospects for 2004," presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.
     This comes despite the tepid 1.5 pct growth in exports posted in 2003 when electronics, the country's main export, slipped 2.62 pct.
     Bunye expressed confidence that the economy will remain resilient despite continued political uncertainty with the approach of the May 10 national elections.
     However Bunye said foreign investors would be more optimistic if heated political squabbling lessened.
     The Philippine peso has hovered just above record low closing levels for the past week while the stock market hit five-week lows amid intense political in-fighting and fears of military destabilization before the May polls.
     The front runner in the presidential race is opposition candidate Fernando Poe, a movie star, but a high school drop-out with no experience in government, who has declined to detail his economic platform.

 

STOCK ALERT - Philippines' PLDT firmer on bargain-hunting, ADR gains


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone was firmer in early trade as bargain-hunting on the stock emerged after recent sharp falls, dealers said.
     Interest on the stock was further buoyed by gains of its American Depositary Receipts (ADR) in New York last night, dealers said.
     PLDT was top-traded, up 25.00 pesos at 875, on 51,320 shares.
     Its ADRs rose 0.57 usd to 15.50 in New York last night in line with gains in Wall Street.
     Dealers said investors have begun to re-position themselves ahead of the company's 2003 earnings report due out later this month.
     The country's largest telecom firm is expected to report a net profit of at least 10 bln pesos for 2003 on the back of hefty gains of its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc.
     PLDT was today reported to have concluded a new pay package with its employees.
     (1 usd = 55.90 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Philippines' MBf changes name to IPVG Corp


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Holding company MBf Inc has changed its corporate name to IPVG Corp and its shares will be traded under the trading symbol IPVG instead of MBF from Monday (Feb 9), the stock exchange said.
     The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved the merger of IPVG Corp and MBf Inc.
     MBf is also scheduled to list on Monday an additional 313.35 mln common shares, representing shares converted from advances from MBf International Ltd, MBf Asia Capital Corp Holdings Inc and Grogram Ltd.
     MBf is engaged in acquiring and disposing of properties and securities.
     At 10.04 am, MBf was untraded after closing at 1.98 pesos previously.
     MBf is about 60 pct owned by MBf Asia Capital Corp Holdings Ltd and 14 pct owned by MBf International Ltd, based in Malaysia.
     (1 usd = 55.90 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 

Philippines PLDT agrees with labor union on new pay package - report


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) and its rank-and-file labor union have agreed on a new pay package, the terms of which have yet to be approved by the 5,300-strong labor group, the BusinessWorld newspaper reported.
     Bong Beato, vice president of PLDT'S rank-and-file union, was quoted to have said that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) would still have to be approved by 50 pct plus one of the union members.
     Under the new CBA, rank-and-file employees will get an additional 1,800 pesos this year, 1,850 in 2005 and 2,450 in 2006. Employees will also get a signing bonus worth a month's pay plus 10,000 pesos.
     PLDT had a total of 10,355 employees as of end-September, lower than 12, 131 at end-2002.
     (1 usd = 55.90 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 

Philippines' San Miguel asks court to free up sequestered shares - report


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - San Miguel Corp has asked the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to free from sequestration 25.45 mln of its shares, which the company said were not bought with coconut levy funds, the BusinessWorld newspaper reported, quoting court documents.
     The report said the shares belong to six Coconut Investment Industry Fund (CIIF) oil mills and their 14 holding companies, all of which were founded by San Miguel chairman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.
     The whole block totals 33.1 mln shares, representing 27 pct of the country's largest food and beverage conglomerate.
     San Miguel, in a seven-page motion, asked that it be involved in the civil case against CIIF.
     It said it "has an interest in the matter in dispute between plaintiff and defendants CIIF companies, being the owner by purchase of a portion of the so-called 'CIIF block of San Miguel shares of stock,' which plaintiff seeks to recover in this case as alleged ill-gotten wealth."
     On April 1986, CIIF companies sold their 33.1 mln shares in San Miguel at the Manila Stock Exchange. The shares were purchased by San Miguel itself.
     The government has been contesting ownership of a 47 pct block of shares in San Miguel. It alleges that Cojuangco used levies collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos administration to buy the shares.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com


 


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