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Friday, February 27, 2004
Philippines' ATR Kim Eng unit revokes property dividend to parent fi
Manila shares close slightly down on political concerns, weak peso
Manila shares marginally weaker mid-session on politics, weak peso
Philippines' Philex Mining board extends company' corporate life for 50 yrs
Philippines' Solid Group plans condominium project; hikes offshore investment
Blaze on Philippines' Aboitiz Transport owned ferry leaves 200 missing
Philippines' Allied Bank says it will raise 50 mln usd Tier 2 capital
Philippines' Purefoods Hormel to open new 2 bln peso factory this yr - report
China's Eximbank to lend 400 mln usd for Philippines' Northrail project
Manila shares outlook - Mixed to higher in cautious trade
Philippine movie star Poe maintains slight lead over Arroyo in SWS survey

Thursday, February 26, 2004
Philippine banks' end-Dec NPL ratio 14.05 pct vs 14.79 in Nov
Forex - Philippine peso ends near record low as regulator keeps rates steady
Philippine Feb CPI seen up 3.4-3.6 pct year-on-year - Buenaventura
Philippine exchange to meet stockholders March 2-3 on share placement issue
Philippines' Fortune Cement merges with unit Premier Cement
Philippines says ASEAN 'open skies' agreement needs more study
Philippines' Arroyo asks PCGG to keep five directors on San Miguel board
Philippine poll body asked to compel Poe to join presidential debate
Manila shares close firmer on bargain-hunting, stronger offshore markets
Philippine Airlines says 'open skies' policy with 3 ASEAN states is lopsided
Manila shares firmer late morning on selected bargain-hunting - UPDATE
Manila shares firmer mid-session on bargain-hunting in selected blue chips
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' PLDT firmer on ADR gain, earnings outlook
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' Globe higher early on bargain-hunting
Philippine Realty to settle Equitable loan via payment-in-kind deal
Philippines' Crown Equities cedes control of Hopewell Crown to Northeast Dev
Manila Jockey Club enters property development jv with Century Communities
Philippines tells IMF exchange rate will remain market-determined
Philippines' Smart seeks 2 more access codes to cover additional subscribers
Manila shares outlook - Mixed to higher, political concerns remain

February 20 - 23 
February 18 - 19 
February 16 - 17 
February 12 - 13 
February 10 - 11 
February 6 - 9 
February 4 - 5 
February 2 - 3 

 


 

 
Philippines' ATR Kim Eng unit revokes property dividend to parent firm


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - ATR Kim Eng Financial Corp said wholly owned unit ATR-Kim Eng Capital Partners Inc has revoked the property dividend it declared in Dec 2003.
     The dividend would have involved the transfer to the parent firm of 24.44 mln common shares of its own capital stock.
     "This is to accommodate any future increase in foreign equity participation in the (parent) company which, being a majority shareholder of Sucat Land Corp, a landholding company, is subject to 40 pct foreign ownership limit," ATR Kim Eng said.
     ATR Kim Eng added Sucat Land has approved the issuance of 1.0 mln preferred shares to form part of unit's authorized capital stock. The shares issue will be used to refinance the property firm's maturing obligations with longer-term funds.
     "The scheme will also allow the holders of the preferred shares to benefit from Sucat Land's upside once the residential-commercial development project is in full swing as the stock will have convertibility features," ATR Kim Eng.
     Accordingly, Sucat Land's authorized capital stock will be increased to 410 mln pesos from the current 310 mln.
     (1 usd = 56.335 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 
Manila shares close slightly down on political concerns, weak peso


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed slightly weaker in lackluster trade amid political concerns ahead of the May 10 elections and the currency market's continuing volatility, dealers said.
     Investors stayed away from the market in the absence of fresh leads and because of the peso's fall for a second time in eight days to 56.35 to the US dollar in early trade due to growing political uncertainties.
     The composite index closed down 2.79 points, or 0.19 pct, at 1,483.18, on volume of 121.8 mln shares worth 582.8 mln pesos. It traded between 1,481.08 and 1,489.94.
     In the broader market, losers beat gainers 26 to 16, while 48 stocks were unchanged.
     Two separate surveys on the presidential race show conflicting results and investors are awaiting the Supreme Court's verdict on whether or not opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr should be barred from taking part in the election on citizenship grounds.
     Dealers expect sideways trading on Monday as the market awaits fresh leads, and the Supreme Court's ruling on Poe's candidacy, if the court does not make an announcement this weekend.
     Investors are also awaiting the January budget deficit figures, they said.
     The government's Investor Relations Office, which said earlier that the numbers would be announced today, clarified this morning that the authorities have yet to come up with the final revenue and expenditure figures.
     "The market can't decide for now where to go given the political uncertainty and the lack of convincing leads. The weak peso is another reason to stay on the sidelines," Accord Capital Equities research consultant Ron Rodrigo said.
     "I guess trading range will remain very tight until early next week, until we see fresh leads and the Supreme Court decision on Poe is out."
     Andrew Long, research head at ATR-Kim Eng Securities, said the market has been "in a state of flux" and is likely to remain so especially with the prevailing apprehension over the upcoming elections.
     Movie star Poe has maintained a slight lead over incumbent Gloria Arroyo ahead of the presidential polls, according to results of a new survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
     Results of a separate survey released last week by Pulse Asia showed Arroyo overtaking Poe by a slight margin. She had 31.9 pct against his 31.7 pct.
     The SWS survey said 37.5 pct of respondents it polled from Jan 28 to Feb 6 would vote for Poe, a high-school drop-out whose candidacy has spooked financial markets, while 28.7 pct would choose US-trained economist Arroyo.
     His possible disqualification has stirred worries of violent protests.
     Mall operator SM Prime Holdings was top-traded but unchanged at 6.10 pesos on volume of 36.1 mln shares. Cross sales boosted the stock's turnover.
     Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) was down 5.00 at 970, while rival Globe Telecom was unchanged at 885.
     PLDT affiliate Pilipino Telephone was down 0.06 at 1.56 on 13.6 mln shares after recent sustained gains on renewed speculation about a merger with PLDT's highly profitable wireless unit Smart Communications Inc.
     Ayala Corp was down 0.10 at 5.90.
     San Miguel A was up 0.50 at 57.50, while San Miguel B, available to foreign investors, fell 0.50 to 70.
     The all-shares index was up 0.09 at 941.58.
     The commercial-industrial index fell 4.49 to 2,313.68.
     Property dropped 1.18 to 530.60.
     Mining and oil were unchanged at 1,526.13 and 1.27, respectively.
     Banking and financial services shed 1.09 to 432.97.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 
Manila shares marginally weaker mid-session on politics, weak peso


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices were marginally weaker in late morning trade, with pre-election political concerns and the peso's weakness against the US dollar keeping investors sidelined, dealers said.
     The market was unable to sustain slight gains at the open after the peso hit, for a second time in eight days, a record low of 56.35 to the dollar in early trade, also weighed down by growing political uncertainties.
     Two separate surveys on the presidential race are showing conflicting results and investors are nervously awaiting the Supreme Court's verdict on whether opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr should be barred on citizenship grounds.
     At 10.50 am, the composite index was down 3.48 points or 0.23 pct at 1, 482.49, on volume of 46.6 mln shares worth 194.4 mln pesos. It has so far traded between 1,481.08 and 1,489.94.
     In the broader market, losers outnumbered gainers 19 to 5, with 30 stocks unchanged.
     "The market can't decide for now where to go given the political uncertainty and the lack of convincing leads. The weak peso is another reason to stay on the sidelines," Accord Capital Equities research consultant Ron Rodrigo said.
     "I guess trading range will remain very tight until early next week, until we see fresh leads and the Supreme Court decision on Poe is out."
     Mall operator SM Prime Holdings was top-traded so far and down 0.10 peso at 6.00 on 16.4 mln shares, following recent gains.
     Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) and rival Globe Telecom were unchanged at 975 and 885, respectively.
     PLDT affiliate Pilipino Telephone was down 0.04 at 1.58 after recent sustained gains on renewed speculation about a merger with PLDT's highly profitable wireless unit Smart Communications Inc.
     Bank of the Philippine Islands was up 0.50 at 46.
     Meralco B, available to foreign investors, fell 0.50 to 31.50, while Meralco A dropped 0.25 to 19.25.
     The all-shares index was up 0.07 at 941.56.
     The commercial-industrial index fell 5.82 to 2,312.35.
     Property dropped 4.22 to 527.56.
     Mining and oil were unchanged at 1,526.13 and 1.27, respectively.
     Banking and financial services gained 1.29 to 435.35.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Philippines' Philex Mining board extends company' corporate life for 50 yrs


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philex Mining Corp said its board of directors has amended its Articles of Incorporate to extend its corporate life for another 50 years.
     A resolution to extend Philex's corporate life will be presented to the company's shareholders during the annual meeting set for June 29, it told the stock exchange.
     Philex was incorporated on July 19, 1955.
     It mainly produces copper concentrates containing copper, gold and silver, and gold bullion at its copper-gold mine in Padcal, Tuba, Benguet Province in northern Philippines.
     These products are within acceptable quantity and quality standards required by the world market, while its gold bullion has been accepted by the central bank's mint and gold refinery as well as by Johnson Matthey of England.
     The copper concentrates are either exported to Nippon Mining Co Ltd and smelted in the Saganoseki Smelter in Kyushu Island, Japan or shipped to the smelter of the Philippine Associated Smelter and Refinery in Isabel, Leyte.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Philippines' Solid Group plans condominium project; hikes offshore investment


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Solid Group Inc (SGI) said it has authorized unit Solid Manila Corp to undertake a tri-tower residential condominium development project, with the first phase seen costing 350 mln pesos.
     Solid Group also announced it will increase its total investments in bonds, equities and other investment instruments, to be made through its wholly-owned offshore subsidiary, to 10 mln usd from 5 mln.
     Solid Group's board of directors, at a meeting yesterday, also approved the purchase of the holdings of Sony Corp and Sony International (Singapore) Ltd in majority-owned units SSEC Inc and Precos Inc, respectively, for a total of 40 mln pesos.
     Sony Corp has a 32.5 pct stake in SSEC Inc, while Sony International has a 40 pct interest in Precos Inc.
     "By virtue of the said purchase, SSEC Inc, and Precos Inc will become wholly-owned subsdiaries of SGI," Solid Group said, without explaining the decision of the Sony group to divest from SSEC and Precos.
     The first phase of Solid Manila's condominium project will involve the construction of a 28-storey tower.
     Solid Group said it will advance the initial amounts required by Solid Manila for the project.
     It gave no other details.
     (1 usd = 56.35 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Blaze on Philippines' Aboitiz Transport owned ferry leaves 200 missing


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - More than 200 people are unaccounted for after rescuers plucked hundreds of people from a ferry that caught fire off the Philippines capital early today, officials said.
     One person died and 14 others were injured in the incident aboard the SuperFerry 14, owned by Aboitiz Transport, coastguard spokesman Lieutenant Armando Balilo told AFP.
     Coast guard deputy commandant Rear Admiral Danilo Abinoja said 877 passengers and crew were aboard the ferry when it caught fire and that 667 had been accounted for, all of them picked up by passing vessels and fishing boats.
     He said at least 210 were still missing but may had been picked up by smaller boats and simply not reported in yet. The boats that rescued survivors docked in different areas in Manila and the neighboring province of Cavite, complicating the task of accounting for all aboard.
     Abinoja said the fire was caused by "an explosion of undetermined origin, " in the engine room but would not speculate what might have caused it.
     Abinoja said it was possible there were more dead bodies on the burning vessel but insisted "it is too early to say," that the death toll would go up.
      The ship captain Ceferino Manzo ordered his crew to lower the life rafts and abandon ship nearly two hours later as they struggled to put out the blaze, said Gina Virtusio, spokeswoman for Aboitiz Transport.
     The SuperFerry 14 was built to carry a maximum of 1,672 people, the company said. It had been in service for three years.

 
Philippines' Allied Bank says it will raise 50 mln usd Tier 2 capital


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Allied Banking Corp said it plans to raise 50 mln usd in Tier 2 capital via dollar-denominated borrowings.
     The bank has appointed ING Bank NV as its financial adviser for the exercise, which is awaiting the central bank's approval.
     Allied Bank gave no other details.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Philippines' Purefoods Hormel to open new 2 bln peso factory this yr - report


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Purefoods Hormel Company Inc, a unit of San Miguel Pure Foods Company Inc, is now constructing a 2-bln peso manufacturing facility in Cavite, which will be opened in May or June, BusinessWorld newspaper reported.
     The paper quoted Purefoods Hormel president Francisco Alejo III as saying that the six-hectare factory will be one of the biggest meat processing facilities in Asia, complementing its existing plant in Marikina in metropolitan Manila.
     Purefoods Hormel is 60 pct owned by San Miguel Pure Foods and 40 pct by Hormel Foods USA. San Miguel Pure Foods is a unit of San Miguel Corp.
     (1 usd = 56.34 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
China's Eximbank to lend 400 mln usd for Philippines' Northrail project


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Export-Import Bank of China has agreed to lend 400 mln usd to the Philippine government, which will use the loan to finance its Northrail project.
     The loan agreement was signed yesterday by Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong and China Eximbank chairman and president Yang Zilin at the presidential palace.
     The loan, negotiated for 10 years, will allow the construction of a 32. 2-kilometer rail track from Kaloocan City in metropolitan Manila to Malolos, Bulacan in central Luzon.
     The loan has a 20-year maturity with a five-year grace period and is offered at a highly concessional interest rate, according to the Department of Finance.
     China National Machinery and Equipment Corp (CNMEG) is the contractor of the project, which aims to alleviate the worsening traffic situation in the metropolitan Manila and foster urban decongestion.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Manila shares outlook - Mixed to higher in cautious trade


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices are expected to extend gains at the open on follow-through buying in blue chips with good earnings prospects this year, but investors are likely remain cautious amid pre-election political worries, dealers said.
     The peso's weakness against the US dollar is a reason to stay on the sidelines, given the growing pressure on the central bank to further tighten liquidity, they said.
     Yesterday, the composite index closed up 17.65 points or 1.20 pct at 1, 485.97.
     Dealers said the market will continue consolidating within the range of 1, 460 to 1,500 today, as investors await the Supreme Court's verdict on opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.'s citizenship issue.
     They added that the lack of fresh leads may also keep investors sidelined.
     "The market is likely to remain in consolidation...as investors adopt a cautious stance given uncertainties on the political front," BPI Securities said in its daily note.
     The peso closed at 56.34 to the US dollar yesterday, near its all-time low of 56.35 as the central bank's Monetary Board has maintained its stance to let the peso seek its own level, dealers said.
     The unit closed at 56.24 on Tuesday. Local financial markets were closed on Wednesday for a special holiday.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Philippine movie star Poe maintains slight lead over Arroyo in SWS survey


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Movie star Fernando Poe Jr has maintained a slight lead over incumbent Gloria Arroyo ahead of the Philippine presidential elections in May, according to results of a new survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
     Results of a separate survey released last week by pollster Pulse Asia showed Arroyo already overtaking Poe in the race by a slight margin. She had 31.9 pct against his 31.7 pct.
     The SWS survey said 37.5 pct of respondents it polled from Jan 28 to Feb 6 would vote for Poe, a high-school drop-out whose candidacy has spooked financial markets, while 28.7 pct would choose US-trained economist Arroyo.
     The Philippine Daily Inquirer said SWS head Mahar Mangahas is Poe's first cousin, and that the survey was commissioned by Poe himself.
     The survey used a statistically representative sample of 3,600 registered voters, with an error margin of 1.6 pct.
     Poe gained one percentage point while Arroyo gained two compared with the last SWS survey released on Jan 30, narrowing the gap between the two leaders to only nine percentage points, it said.
     The survey also shows that the class D and E voters -- those at the bottom of the economic scale -- would overwhelmingly vote for Poe, the self-proclaimed "king" of Philippine movies who endeared himself to the public in a career spanning over 50 years, SWS said.
     The survey also showed that 17.4 pct would vote for former education secretary Raul Roco, 8.4 pct for ex-national police chief Panfilo Lacson, 1.7 pct for evangelist Eduardo Villanueva and just 0.2 pct for businessman Eddie Gil. Six pct were undecided.
     The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Arroyo's political spokesman Mike Defensor as saying that the SWS survey was "an old survey."
     "And I think if SWS had conducted a survey within the same period as Pulse Asia did, (the result) will be the same, within the margin of error," he said.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Philippine banks' end-Dec NPL ratio 14.05 pct vs 14.79 in Nov


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The non-performing loans (NPL) of commercial banks in the Philippines stood at average of 14.05 pct of their total loan portfolio as of end-December, an improvement from end-November's 14.79 pct, the central bank said.
     The industry's NPL ratio in December 2002 stood at 14.95 pct.
     "The improvement was primarily attributable to the 3.5 pct decrease in the NPL level to 245.51 bln pesos from 254.51 bln the month earlier, while total loan portfolio level grow 1.5 pct to 1.747 trln from 1.72 last month," the central bank said in a statement.
     The industry's non-performing assets (NPA) ratio also improved to 12.85 pct at end-December from 13.24 at end-November. NPA include banks' NPL and foreclosed assets.
     (1 usd = 56.34 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 
Forex - Philippine peso ends near record low as regulator keeps rates steady


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The peso closed near its all-time low of 56.35 to the US dollar after the central bank's monetary board chose to keep the benchmark interest rates steady at today's meeting, dealers said.
     The peso closed at its lowest intra-day level of 56.34 after hitting a high of 56.245 in early morning trade. Total value turnover was 95.50 mln usd.
     The unit closed at 56.24 on Tuesday. Local financial markets were closed yesterday for a special holiday.
     "We suspect the market took the inaction of the central bank as a cue to start bidding up the dollar," a local bank dealer said.
     The central bank kept overnight rates steady at 6.75 pct for borrowing and 9.00 pct for lending, despite earlier warnings that it is prepared to use monetary tools to stem the peso's weakness should the need arise.
     On Feb 5, the monetary regulator surprised the market when it raised the reserve requirements of banks by 2.0 percentage points to siphon off some 30 bln pesos from the system. Yet, the peso has remained volatile.
     The central bank has been closely monitoring banks' foreign exchange transactions to uncover possible speculative plays.
     "Although our view is for a gradual depreciation of the peso, what's happening may be a little bit overdone," a local bank dealer said.
     He added it will be "expensive" for banks to keep an overbought position as long as the peso continues to trade weaker within the 56.15-56.35 range as the central bank may directly intervene in the spot market.
     "We would likely see a correction above 56.15 in the next two weeks," said another trader.
     Tomorrow's trade will likely cap at the 56.35 resistance level, as market players tread cautiously for fear of a central bank intervention, dealers added.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippine Feb CPI seen up 3.4-3.6 pct year-on-year - Buenaventura


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippines' consumer price index (CPI) likely rose 3.4-3.6 pct year-on-year in February due to higher oil prices and the prevailing weakness of the peso, central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura said.
     January inflation rose 3.4 pct year-on-year, using the 1994 price base.
     Buenaventura said the bird flu scare, which caused the public to avoid poultry products, may have also contributed to higher food prices as meat prices were noted to have increased following a surge in demand.
     Meanwhile, the central bank kept key interest rates unchanged at today's Monetary Board meeting.
     The central bank's overnight borrowing and lending rates stand at 6.75 pct and 9.00 pct, respectively.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippine exchange to meet stockholders March 2-3 on share placement issue


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) said it will hold special shareholder meetings on March 2 and 3 to clarify a recent private placement exercise by the bourse.
     The meetings will be held in PSE's Tektite Office in Ortigas, Pasig City, on March 2, and in the Ayala Office in Makati City on March 3.
     The exchange has raised 629 mln pesos by issuing 5.265 mln of its shares via private placements by five institutional investors, namely state-run pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund, San Miguel Retirement Fund, Kim Eng Investment Ltd and KE Strategic Pte Ltd.
     The transaction was underwritten by ATR-Kim Eng Capital Partners Inc.
     Prior to the transaction, a group of PSE shareholders asked the exchange's board to suspend the 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 transaction.
     "The possibility of undertaking a private placement for the unissued shares of the Exchange was never withheld from either the shareholders or the investing public. In fact, the possibility of future offerings is discussed in various sections of the PSE's Information Memorandum issued during the listing exercise," said PSE president Cayetano Paderanga Jr.
     The Coyiuto group had claimed that shareholders consider the offer price as detrimental to their interests since it represents a huge discount compared to the market price, which was 185 pesos per share when the transaction was announced.
     The Securities and Exchange Commission, on the other hand, has found the indicative price of 119.50 pesos per share "reasonable".
     "The placement issue price of 119.50 pesos per share is a market-driven price and was obtained by the underwriter in the placement process with the institutional investors," Paderanga said.
     "This means the offer price is the maximum amount that institutional investors are willing to pay given the current market standing of the Exchange."
     He noted that the share prices of the Hong Kong, Singapore and Australian stock exchanges have performed well due to solid historical and projected operating income, net income after tax, and above market return on equity.
     Unfortunately, he said the PSE "has not yet sustained the circumstances prevailing in these three exchanges."
     The SEC had been urging the PSE to sell more shares after the latter listed by way of introduction some of its shares on the bourse in December. This is to enable the bourse to substantially comply with the Securities Regulation Code, which sets a 20 pct cap on brokers' ownership of the bourse.
     The stock closed down 1.00 peso at 166 today.
     (1 usd = 56.27 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines' Fortune Cement merges with unit Premier Cement


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Fortune Cement Corp said two-thirds of its stockholders has approved the company's merger with wholly-owned subsidiary Premier Cement Corp.
     Fortune will be the surviving entity after the consolidation, which has yet to be approved by appropriate regulatory agencies.
     "The merger will simplify the legal structure and promote significant cost efficiency improvements, such as use of substantial spare equipment and machinery by the company, single statutory audit and reportorial requirements, " Fortune said in a disclosure to the stock exchange.
     The merger will not involve issuance of shares, it added.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines says ASEAN 'open skies' agreement needs more study


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippines' civil aeronautics board asked the government to defer signing an agreement among Southeast Asian countries to liberalize air cargo services until after a thorough study.
     Board executive director Tomas Manalac said "careful study and consultations" should be carried out before Manila enters into the multilateral "open skies" pact with Singapore, Thailand and Brunei.
     "We had recommended that there would be consultations first with the affected sectors before such an agreement could be forged," Manalac said.
     Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), which is against the accord, said the agreement was due to have been signed Tuesday.
     The agreement will allow foreign carriers to pick up cargo from the Philippines and fly to a third country like the US. While the deal is applicable to all parties concerned, PAL said it was disadvantageous to Manila.
     PAL said the deal would automatically grant Singapore, Thai and Brunei airlines unlimited cargo capacity rights to and from the Philippines.
     Local cargo and passenger airlines "will instead bear the negative impact of a sudden surge of excess cargo capacity fielded by subsidized, government-owned carriers like Singapore Airlines," PAL said.
     It charged the deal would give Singapore Airlines extensive open skies privileges "in one stroke and on a silver platter".
     Sources at the transportation and communications department said President Gloria Arroyo had made a commitment to sign the accord in a recent visit to Bali, Indonesia.
 

 
Philippines' Arroyo asks PCGG to keep five directors on San Miguel board


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo has asked the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to keep the same number of government representatives on San Miguel Corp's 15-member board of directors.
     The move effectively junks PCGG's earlier reported plan to increase the government's representation in the country's largest food and beverage conglomerate.
     In a letter to PCGG chairperson Haydee Yorac, President Arroyo asked for the election to the board at the company's annual meeting in April of Leo Alvez, Pacifico Fajardo, Menardo Jimenez, Octavio Victor Espiritu and Egmidio De Silva Jose.
     PCGG, the agency tasked with recovering assets the government allegedly owns, was earlier planning to seek an extra seat on San Miguel's board to consolidate the hold on the company.
     According to commissioner Ruben Carranza, the PCGG could get additional board seats if other government agencies holding San Miguel shares allow that PCGG to represent them.
     State-run pension funds Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), which also hold San Miguel shares, are represented in the 15-man board with one director each.
     The government has been contesting ownership of a 47 pct block of shares in San Miguel, as it alleges that group chairman and chief executive officer Eduardo Cojuangco Jr, whom the court has been allowed to vote for the 20 pct blo ck, used levies collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos era to buy the shares.
     Cojuangco disputes the allegations, saying he acquired the shares using his own money.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippine poll body asked to compel Poe to join presidential debate


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Movie star presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr, the best-placed challenger to President Gloria Arroyo in the May election, must be compelled to join an April debate, failing which the incumbent will also stay away, her spokesman said today.
     Poe's camp has said the high-school drop-out may be unable to join the April 13 debate, which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and a Roman Catholic Church-run poll monitoring body are sponsoring, because it may be a "trap" to embarrass the political novice.
     "We urge Comelec to exercise its moral suasion to convince Mr Poe to appear and explain his platform of government on nationwide TV and on prime time," presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.
     He said that, should the Comelec fail to convince Poe, Arroyo "will have to beg off from any debate."
     While the president believes the public should be given a chance to know the candidates, a debate without "one of the principal contenders will not serve its purpose of giving the electorate an informed choice," Bunye said.
     The other candidates, former education secretary Raul Roco, former police chief Panfilo Lacson, television Christian evangelist Eduardo Villanueva and businessman Eddie Gil, have said they take part in the debate.
     Poe's failure to present a concrete platform has scared businessmen, who see him as unqualified to be president of a country, where a majority of its 82 mln citizens live in poverty.
     The financial markets have been volatile since he announced his candidacy, with the peso falling to historic lows.
     Arroyo is banking on her experience, as well as economic policies, to get a second crack at the presidency, which she inherited in 2001 from deposed president Joseph Estrada, now in detention on corruption charges.
 

 
Manila shares close firmer on bargain-hunting, stronger offshore markets


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed firmer on bargain-hunting in selected blue chips led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT), dealers said.
     Morning gains in most of regional markets and on Wall Street overnight inspired buying in the local bourse, although investors were still largely sidelined because of pre-election political concerns, they said.
     The composite index closed up 17.65 points or 1.20 pct at 1,485.97, on volume of 115.7 mln shares valued at 579.2 mln pesos. It traded between 1,468. 32 and 1,486.10.
     In the broader market, gainers led losers 25 to 13, while 32 stocks were unchanged.
     A survey by PulseAsia Inc, which showed that President Gloria Arroyo's campaign for a full six-year term is gaining ground, also provided a positive backdrop, dealers said.
     The sustainability of these gains, however, will depend on fresh leads, they said, with the market awaiting the announcement of the January budget deficit, scheduled for tomorrow.
     "There was interest in PLDT and a few other blue chips, and the gains were broad-based as indicated by the 2-to-1 lead of advancers," Accord Capital Equities analyst Lawrence de Leon said.
     "But any further upside will depend particularly on the budget deficit figures, which may give us a picture of what to expect in the three-month period before the elections."
     "The rise in regional markets and on Wall Street inspired buying in selected blue chips, including PLDT," Westlink Global Equities chairman Rommel Macapagal said.
     "The PulseAsia survey may have also boosted buying interest."
     After trailing in previous opinion polls, Arroyo has topped the PulseAsia survey on the presidential race by a tiny margin, overtaking popular movie actor and opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr.
     In the survey of 1,800 voters conducted by PulseAsia from Feb 16-20, a total of 31.9 pct of respondents chose the US-trained economist while 31.7 pct voted for the high school dropout.
     Poe's lack of formal education and experience in government service worries the business community, while his team of economic advisers is viewed as unimpressive.
     The market, however, is waiting to see whether the Supreme Court declares Poe as a "natural-born Filipino citizen" and allows him to stand in the May 10 polls.
     PLDT was top-traded and up 15 pesos at 975 on 243,190 shares. Trading in the counter accounted for about 40 pct of the market turnover.
     Its American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) gained 0.50 usd to 17.40 in New York last night.
     Dealers said support for PLDT should remain intact as the company is comfortable with a consensus net profit forecast of 17-18 bln pesos for 2004, compared with last year's net profit of 11.2 bln, on gains in the wireless business.
     PLDT affiliate Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel) extended gains, up 0.12 peso or 8.0 pct at 1.62 on 32.39 mln shares.
     PLDT and wireless unit Smart Communications are moving to address Piltel's debt concerns, fuelling renewed speculation about a Smart-Piltel merger which will facilitate Smart's backdoor-listing.
     Mall operator SM Prime Holdings was up 0.10 at 6.10 on 11.6 mln shares.
     JG Summit Holdings was up 0.06 pesos at 1.90, largely on cross sales worth 27.6 mln pesos.
     Bank of the Philippine Islands was up 0.50 at 45.50.
     Globe Telecom was up 15 at 885.
     Meralco B, open to foreign investors, was up 0.50 at 32, while Meralco A rose 0.25 to 19.50.
     The all-shares index was up 8.24 points at 941.49.
     The commercial-industrial index rose 30.64 to 2,318.17.
     Property was up 3.58 at 531.78. Mining was up 31.08 at 1,526.13.
     Oil was unchanged at 1.27.
     Banking and financial services advanced 1.74 to 434.06.
     (1 usd = 56.27 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippine Airlines says 'open skies' policy with 3 ASEAN states is lopsided


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Airlines has criticized a cargo 'open skies' policy that the government has supposedly signed with Brunei, Singapore and Thailand as a lopsided arrangement that will only benefit foreign cargo carriers.
     Reports said the agreement was scheduled to be signed yesterday, but PAL could not confirm if it took place.
     The agreement will allow foreign carriers to pick up cargo from the Philippines, take off from here and fly to a third country such as the United States.
     "What does the Philippines really get in exchange? Nothing. Singapore and Brunei, for instance, are mere transit points, not market sources. Singapore Airlines is the big winner in this deal," PAL said in a statement.
     Local cargo and passenger airlines will instead "bear the negative impact of a sudden surge of excess cargo capacity fielded by subsidized, government-owned carriers like Singapore Airlines," PAL said.
     The local carrier said the multilateral agreement on the liberalization of all cargo air services will automatically grant Singapore, Thai and Brunei airlines unlimited cargo capacity rights to and from the Philippines.
     The arrangement also provides a change of gauge rights, which PAL said could be exploited to set up a cargo hub; unlimited code-sharing rights, including third country code carrier code sharing and same-country carrier code-sharing; free intermodal rights to combine airline services with other transportation modes such as truck, ship and train services.
     Foreign carriers will also be given "de facto" seventh freedom rights as airlines may use a combination of fifth freedom and change of gauge privileges to operate seventh freedom hub routes, PAL said.
     "The rights above are reciprocally granted to Philippine air carriers, at least on paper," PAL added.
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 
Manila shares firmer late morning on selected bargain-hunting - UPDATE


     (Updating with analyst quotes, prices)
     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices were firmer in late morning trade on bargain-hunting in selected blue chips led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT), dealers said.
     Gains in regional markets this morning and on Wall Street overnight also inspired buying in the local market, although investors are still largely sidelined by pre-election political concerns, they said.
     A survey by PulseAsia Inc, showing President Gloria Arroyo's campaign for a full six-year term gaining ground, also provides a positive backdrop, dealers said.
     At 10.55 am, the composite index was up 14.16 points or 0.96 pct at 1,482. 57, on volume of 59.2 mln shares valued at 275.3 mln pesos. It has so far traded between 1,468.32 and 1,482.57.
     "The rise in regional markets and on Wall Street inspired buying in selected blue chips, including PLDT. The market is now testing support at the 1,480 level," Westlink Global Equities chairman Rommel Macapagal said.
     "The PulseAsia survey may have also boosted buying interest."
     After trailing in previous opinion polls, Arroyo has topped the PulseAsia survey on the presidential race by a tiny margin, overtaking popular movie actor and opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr.
     In the survey of 1,800 voters conducted by PulseAsia from Feb 16-20, a total of 31.9 pct of respondents chose the US-trained economist while 31.7 pct voted for the high school dropout.
     Poe's lack of formal education and experience in government service worries the business community, while his team of economic advisers is viewed as unimpressive.
     The market, however, is waiting for the Supreme Court decision whether to declare Poe as a "natural-born Filipino citizen" and allow him to stand in the May 10 polls.
     PLDT was top-traded so far and up 15 pesos at 975 on 137,080 shares. Trading in the counter accounted for nearly half of the market turnover.
     Its American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) gained 0.50 usd to 17.40 in New York last night.
     Dealers said support for PLDT should remain intact as the company is comfortable with a consensus net profit forecast of 17-18 bln pesos for 2004, compared with last year's net profit of 11.2 bln, on gains in the wireless business.
     PLDT affiliate Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel) extended gains, up 0.10 pesos or 6.67 pct at 1.60 on 23.27 mln shares.
     PLDT and wireless unit Smart Communications are moving to address Piltel's debt concerns, fuelling renewed speculation about a Smart-Piltel merger sometime in the future that will facilitate Smart's backdoor-listing.
     JG Summit Holdings was up 0.02 pesos at 1.86, largely on cross sales worth 27.6 mln pesos.
     Ayala Land was up 0.10 at 5.60.
     Globe Telecom was up 20 at 890.
     International Container Terminal Services Inc shed 0.05 to 3.15 also on cross sales.
     The all-shares index was up 7.56 points at 940.81.
     The commercial-industrial index rose 28.45 to 2,315.98.
     Property was up 3.41 at 531.61. Mining was up 17.37 at 1,512.42.
     Oil was unchanged at 1.27.
     Banking and financial services shed 0.84 to 431.48.
     (1 usd = 56.267 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Manila shares firmer mid-session on bargain-hunting in selected blue chips


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices were firmer in mid-session on bargain-hunting in selected blue chips led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT), dealers said.
     Gains in regional markets this morning and on Wall Street overnight also inspired buying in the local market, although investors are still largely sidelined by pre-election political concerns, they said.
     A survey by PulseAsia Inc, showing President Gloria Arroyo's campaign for a full six-year term gaining ground, also provides a positive backdrop, dealers said.
     At 10.39 am, the composite index was up 12.37 points or 0.84 pct at 1,480. 69, on volume of 55.9 mln shares valued at 255.1 mln pesos. It has so far traded between 1,468.32 and 1,480.98.
     (1 usd = 56.26 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' PLDT firmer on ADR gain, earnings outlook


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) rebounded from previous falls after overnight gains in its American Depositary Receipts (ADR), dealers said.
     PLDT was up 15 pesos at 975 on volume of 110,300 shares.
     The stock was top-traded so far, with total trades accounting for nearly half of market turnover.
     Its ADRs gained 0.50 usd to 17.40 in New York last night.
     Dealers said support for PLDT should remain intact as the company is comfortable with a consensus net profit forecast of 17-18 bln pesos for 2004, compared with last year's net profit of 11.2 bln, on gains in the wireless business.
     (1 usd = 56.26 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' Globe higher early on bargain-hunting


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Globe Telecom was higher in early trade on bargain-hunting after the stock's recent decline, dealers said.
     Globe, the second most active stock, was up 20.00 pesos at 890 on 5,000 shares.
     Dealers said the country's second largest telecom firm is expected to sustain its robust performance this year thanks to growth of its wireless business.
     Globe posted a 2003 net profit of 10.3 bln pesos, 50 pct higher than the 6.9 bln booked in the previous year.
     (1 usd = 56.249 pesos)
     cecille.yap@afxasia.com

 
Philippine Realty to settle Equitable loan via payment-in-kind deal


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Realty & Holdings Corp (PhilRealty) said it will purse a payment-in-kind agreement with Equitable PCI Bank for a loan worth 50.6 mln pesos.
     It said the debt settlement agreement, which will involve PhilRealty's condominium units, has been approved by Branch 93 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.
     No other details were provided in its disclosure to the stock exchange.
     (1 usd = 56.24 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Philippines' Crown Equities cedes control of Hopewell Crown to Northeast Dev


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Crown Equities Inc said it has agreed to cede its controlling interest in Hopewell Crown Infrastructure Inc to Northeast Development & Acquisition Corp.
     The closing date of the agreement is set for tomorrow.
     Crown Equities gave no other details.
     The holding firm has interests in infrastructure, property and healthcare.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Philippines tells IMF exchange rate will remain market-determined


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The government has assured the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the peso-dollar exchange rate will remain market-determined, officials said.
     Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong and Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin met with IMF representatives on Tuesday, and assured the Fund that the government is sticking to its fiscal consolidation program to balance the budget by 2009.
     Central bank governor Rafael Buananventura said the regulator's handling of the foreign exchange volatility has been commended by the IMF.
     "They are quite happy to see that we are not trying to fix a specific (peso/dollar) rate, that (the peso) has been allowed to seek an appropriate level based on demand and supply, (and) that the monetary policy is also utilized to make sure that speculative activities are not allowed to happen," Buenaventura told reporters.
     The Philippines remains under a post-program monitoring arrangement with the IMF, but this does not involve any financial package.
     The arrangement requires regular assessment of the Philippine economy, such as the one held in December.
     The results of the December review are expected to be an item in the March 5 IMF board discussion.
     The IMF mission to Manila was headed by Masahiko Takeda.
     On Tuesday central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura said no new monetary policy measures are needed for now to stem the peso's weakness, but warned that the regulator is prepared to tighten liquidity in the financial system should the need arise.
     The central bank has not touched its policy interest rates despite the continuing exchange rate volatility. The rates are currently at 6.750 pct for overnight borrowing and 9.000 pct for overnight lending.
     But on Monday Buenaventura said the central bank has the option to raise the reserve requirement further to 30 pct, after the 200-basis point hike early this month.
     He had noted that while the peso is traditionally weaker during the first quarter when dollar inflows are usually scarce, political factors put additional pressure on the local unit.
     Without the political risk premium, the peso should be around 53-54 to the US dollar, Buenaventura said.
     The peso closed at 56.240 against the US dollar on Tuesday, little changed from Monday's close of 56.255. It reached a record low of 56.35 on Friday.
     Financial markets were closed yesterday for a holiday. Trading resumes today.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 

 
Philippines' Smart seeks 2 more access codes to cover additional subscribers


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Smart Communications Inc, the wireless unit of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT), has asked for two more access codes from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to be able to accommodate additional subscribers, BusinessWorld newspaper reported.
     The report quoted NTC common carrier division director Edgardo Cabarios as saying that Smart wants its access codes increased from the present four.
     As of January this year, Smart, together with affiliate Pilipino Telephone Corp, had more than 13 mln subscribers.
     The four access codes could accommodate 18.5 mln subscribers.
     "Smart stated that it will intensify marketing promotions of its services by year 2004 and the additional access codes are necessary to ensure the ample supply of SIM cards in the market," Cabarios said.
     PLDT's net profit nearly quadrupled in 2003 to 11.2 bln pesos, after provisions, from 3.0 bln in 2002 as Smart's earnings soared to 16.1 bln, almost 10 bln more than in the previous year.
     (1 usd = 56.24 pesos)
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 
Manila shares outlook - Mixed to higher, political concerns remain


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices are expected to open mixed to higher as trading resumes today after a one-day holiday, with bargain-hunters possibly re-entering the market, dealers said.
     Wall Street's gains overnight and a still positive earnings outlook this year provide a positive backdrop, they added.
     However, investors will largely be sidelined as they await the Supreme Court's ruling on the citizenship issue involving presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr, dealers said.
     The composite index closed down 14.25 points or 0.96 pct at 1,468.32 on Tuesday.
     "The market is likely to maintain a cautious stance given uncertainties on the political front," BPI Securities said in its daily note.
     "However, we think investors will continue to take advantage of corrections as an opportunity to accumulate select issues because the earnings outlook for 2004 remains positive."
     The market is likely to continue consolidating within the 1,430 to 1,500 range, BPI said.
     edelacruz@afxasia.com

 


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