Monday, January 05, 2004
Death toll from southern Philippine bombing rises to 22
SARS - Filipina maid from Hong Kong is checked for SARS
Philippine GSIS to sell Equitable PCI stake if price is above 90 pesos/share
Philippines' Bureau of Customs exceeds December, full-year collection goals
Forex - Philippine peso ends firmer in line with region, rate hike hopes
Philippine Stock Exchange reimposes transaction fee effective Jan 1
Philippines' PLDT 2003 net profit likely hit or exceed 10 bln peso goal - CEO
Philippines likely to have exceeded Dec budget deficit target; FY within goal
Philippines 91 and 182-day T-bill rates fall, 364-day rate up
Manila shares close sharply up led by PLDT; key index at 33-mth high
Philippine president files reelection bid, vows 'unprecedented' reforms
BROKER CALL - Singapore-listed Medtecs maintained as a 'buy' - Kim Eng
Manila shares sharply up on telcos' gains, BDO's Equitable PCI buy-in deal
STOCKWATCH - Philippines' Equitable PCI firmer after Banco de Oro deal
Philippines' Fil-Hispano approves acquisition of call center business
Philippine National Bank set to issue 2.2 bln pesos of subordinated notes
Philippines' Arroyo, running mate de Castro file candidacies for May polls
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' PLDT firmer early on ADR gain, earnings outlook
Philippine stock exchange lifts trading suspension on NextStage
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Philippines hopes to win job contracts in Iraqi reconstruction
SARS - Battle against virus becomes more complex after China case
At least 10 dead in southern Philippine bombing
|Death toll from southern Philippine bombing rises to 22|
COTABATO, Philippines (AFX-ASIA) - The death toll from a powerful bomb explosion in the southern Philippines, blamed on a political feud, climbed to 22 today, with many of the 70 wounded in critical condition, officials said.
"Many of the fresh fatalities sustained shrapnel injuries in their vital digestive organs," said regional health officer Elias Sana.
A powerful bomb apparently aimed at killing the local town mayor of Parang in Maguindanao province exploded at a packed sports stadium yesterday.
The mayor, Vivencio Bataga, was among the wounded, many of whom were women and children.
Police blamed Bataga's political rivals for the attack, the fourth such attempt on his life since last year.
Bataga, 57 underwent surgery yesterday for wounds to his face and his side but is said to be out of danger.
A former army colonel who has fought Muslim rebels, Bataga is the first Christian mayor of Parang in Maguindanao, where political conflicts often turn violent and political clans traditionally maintain large numbers of armed followers.
Armed forces vice chief of staff Lieutenant General Rodolfo Garcia said the military, police as well as election officials were coordinating to stem similar violence ahead of the May elections.
Election "hot spots" where violence is expected have been identified and troops will be deployed to help ensure peace on voting day on May 10, Garcia sai d.
The authorities have ruled out the involvement of local Muslim separatist guerrillas, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), or foreign terror groups, such as the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), in yesterday's blast.
MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied his group was behind the blast even though the MILF has a history of using mortar shells to make bombs.
Elections in the Philippines are considered to be among the most violent in Asia particularly in the troubled south were firearms as well as explosives are readily available.
Military statistics show that at least 98 people -- including 24 government officials -- were killed in election-related violence in the run-up to the last congressional elections in May 2001.
|SARS - Filipina maid from Hong Kong is checked for SARS|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - A Filipina domestic helper who returned home from Hong Kong is being tested for possible SARS and has been placed in quarantine with her husband, the Philippine government said.
Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said the woman, who arrived in Manila on Dec 20 for the Christmas holidays, had developed fever and atypical pneumonia -- symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The 42-year-old woman, who had been sick with an upper respiratory infection before her return, and her husband have been quarantined at Manila's Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
Their two children, who showed no symptoms, are being closely monitored at home, the health department said.
"This is only a suspected SARS case, there is no confirmation yet," Dayrit told a news conference, clarifying reports quoting officials that all four were being tested for possible SARS.
The Filipina fell ill on New Year's day at her home in suburban Laguna province south of Manila, according to the health department, which is tracing all relatives and friends who may have had contact with her.
"For the meantime, her condition is stable. We are giving her antibiotics and medicines to cure her," said Troy Gepte, the health department's epidemiologist.
The woman will likely remain in isolation for more than two weeks for officials to pinpoint whether she has SARS or not.
Authorities in China and the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed a SARS case in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.
The Philippine government last year reported 12 SARS cases, including two deaths, but later declared it had eradicated the disease locally.
Filipino maids make up the bulk of the domestic workforce in Hong Kong. Two Filipino citizens, including a maid, died from SARS in the territory.
Last year, the Philippines temporarily banned the deployment of its workers to Hong Kong.
The moratorium was lifted when it was declared that SARS was contained in the former British colony.
|Philippine GSIS to sell Equitable PCI stake if price is above 90 pesos/share|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - State-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) said it will sell its 12.5 pct stake in Equitable PCI Bank only if offered a price higher than 90 pesos per share.
The asking price is the pension fund's acquisition cost.
During the New Year break, another government pension fund, the Social Security System, sold its 29 pct holding in Equitable PCI to Banco De Oro Universal Bank for 43.50 pesos per share, or a total of 14 bln pesos.
The group of mall tycoon Henry Sy has a majority stake in Banco De Oro. Sy also owns a strategic share in China Banking Corp.
"The offer was too low. The price should be over our acquisition cost of 90 pesos per share. If a new offer (comes and it) is still the same as that of SSS or even a little higher, there's no point of discussion," Garcia told AFX-Asia.
He added that it is not the intention of GSIS to sell its investments at a loss. However, he welcomed the entry of the Sy group in Equitable PCI, saying such it will boost the bank's profitability.
"We hold two seats in the bank and these are the key to controlling it," Garcia said.
Banco De Oro has signed a letter of intent to buy the 29-pct stake of the SSS in Equitable PCI.
Banco De Oro's 43.50-peso offer price to SSS is 30 pct higher than Equitable PCI's 2003 closing price of 33.50 on the stock market.
Under the terms in the letter of intent, the purchase price may be adjusted upwards if the Banco De Oro group acquires additional blocks of Equitable PCI shares through a negotiated purchase within six months at higher than the agreed effective price.
The transaction, however, is still subject to appropriate documentation and approval from the Banco De Oro board of directors, the SSS confirmation of the resolution to sell Equitable PCI shares and approvals from the central bank's Monetary Board and other regulatory agencies.
The Sy group is expected to become the single biggest shareholder of Equitable PCI after the deal, while the Go family, which founded the bank, will have a 24 pct stake.
(1 usd = 55.265 pesos)
|Philippines' Bureau of Customs exceeds December, full-year collection goals|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Bureau of Customs' preliminary reports show that it exceeded its collection targets for December and for full-year 2003.
The customs bureau collected 9.569 bln pesos in December, higher than its target for the month of 8.127 bln pesos.
Cumulative collections for the full year, meanwhile, came in at 106.056 bln pesos, 6 pct higher than its 100.056 bln pesos target. The bureau's full-year revenue also grew 10.2 pct year-on-year.
Earlier, National Treasurer Sergio Edeza said the national government was likely to have kept its budget deficit below the full-year ceiling of 202 bln pesos, but may have missed the December target due to higher spending during the month.
(1 usd = 55.265 pesos)
|Forex - Philippine peso ends firmer in line with region, rate hike hopes|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The peso ended firmer against the US dollar on the first trading day of the year, in line with the strength of other currencies in the region, dealers said.
The local currency also received a further boost from expectations that benchmark interest rates may rise in the coming weeks to give the peso support against any speculative attack, they added.
The peso closed at 55.265 to the US dollar after trading between 55.26 and 55.46 on volume of 119.70 mln usd.
It closed at 55.50 on December 30.
Sentiment on the dollar has been bearish across the board on the back of concerns over the widening current account deficit in the US.
Dealers said the market was also surprised at the results of today's Treasury bill auctions as rates did not drop substantially, despite the prevailing liquidity usually available in the market during the new year.
They said this is an indication that benchmark interest rates are likely to go up in the coming weeks.
"People are reading between the lines. The fact that the Treasury allowed full awards and rates did not decline as much as expected only indicates the central bank means business and is ready to defend the peso from speculation that it may fall to below 60 to the dollar ahead of the May 2004 elections," a local bank dealer said.
The rates of 91-day and 182-day Treasury bills fell on full awards today at the first auction for the year, but rate of the 364-day T-bill was allowed to rise.
The Bureau of Treasury raised a total of 11.0 bln pesos at today's auction against total tenders of 13.622 bln.
The bellwether 91-day T-bill rate averaged 6.246 pct, down from 6.532 pct at the previous auction held in November last year. The 182-day rate averaged 7.441 pct against 7.586 pct previously, while the 364-day rate averaged 8.076 pct from 7.884 pct.
Dealers expect the peso to trade between 55.20-55.50 tomorrow, with a bias on a stronger local currency.
|Philippine Stock Exchange reimposes transaction fee effective Jan 1|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine Stock Exchange said it has reimposed a fee equivalent to 0.5 basis points per transaction for all stock-market trades effective January 1.
In a resolution last month, the PSE board approved a proposal to reimpose the transaction fee, the exchange said in a memorandum to brokers.
The PSE stopped collecting transaction fees from 1995, when brokers wanted to generate more earnings while the market was enjoying huge volumes.
It expects to generate up to 50,000 pesos in incremental income from a single-day turnover of 500 mln pesos.
Some brokers said they may pass on the additional costs to clients since they are already shouldering a lot of expenses.
The PSE, which listed its shares on the local bourse last month, currently generates revenue from listing fees and fixed income investments.
(1 usd = 55.265 pesos)
|Philippines' PLDT 2003 net profit likely hit or exceed 10 bln peso goal - CEO|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co is likely to have hit, or even exceeded, its 10-bln peso net profit goal for 2003 on the back of the sustained robust performance of its wireless unit Smart Communication Inc, PLDT president and chief executive officer Manuel Pangilinan said.
At the same time, Pangilinan welcomed the sharp rise in PLDT shares, which ended the first trading day of the year up 50.00 pesos at 1,020.00 on volume of 225,330 shares.
"The surge in PLDT's share price reflects the strong confidence our investors have in our company's performance. I remain confident that PLDT will reach or even exceed the net income expectation of at least 10 bln pesos after provisions for the full year of 2003," Pangilinan said.
He added the company is looking foward to 2004 with optimism and is confident it will be "a great year" for PLDT.
PLDT's healthy gains helped the market close at its highest level in 33 months, with the composite index up 44.97 points or 3.12 pct at 1,487.34 on volume of 195.96 mln shares worth 774.36 mln pesos.
"The increase in our share price as well as the Philippine Stock Exchange as a whole likewise reflects a growing confidence in the Philippines... We have faith in PLDT's performance -- and in this country," Pangilinan said.
The company earlier said it expects no major additional provisions for the last quarter of 2003, making it possible to meet its full-year net profit target range of 9-10 bln pesos.
The 2003 net profit before provisions is seen between 14-15 bln pesos. In 2002, net profit registered 3.1 bln pesos.
(1 usd = 55.41 pesos)
|Philippines likely to have exceeded Dec budget deficit target; FY within goal|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The national government's budget deficit in December is likely to have exceeded the targeted level due to higher spending, but may come in within the goal for the full year, National Treasurer Sergio Edeza said.
Edeza said there were higher accounts payable in December, but he did not provide further details.
As at end November, the cumulative deficit stood at 172.2 bln pesos, below the 189.7-bln peso ceiling set for the period.
The government's aim has been to keep its 2003 full-year budget deficit below 202 bln pesos.
(1 usd = 55.41 pesos)
|Philippines 91 and 182-day T-bill rates fall, 364-day rate up|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The rates of 91-day and 182-day Treasury bills fell on full awards today at the first auction for the year, but rate of the 364-day T-bill was allowed to rise, the Bureau of Treasury said.
The government raised a total of 11.0 bln pesos at today's auction against total tenders of 13.622 bln.
The bellwether 91-day T-bill rate averaged 6.246 pct, down from 6.532 pct at the previous auction held in November last year. The government awarded all its 3 bln pesos offer against tenders of 4.41 bln.
The 182-day rate averaged 7.441 pct against 7.586 pct previously with the government awarding such T-bills worth 3.5 bln pesos against tenders totaling 3.872 bln.
The 364-day rate averaged 8.076 pct versus 7.884 pct previously. The government awarded 4.5 bln pesos worth of such T-bills against total tenders of 5.34 bln.
National Treasurer Sergio Edeza said the drop in shorter-term T-bill rates was expected since the appetite for government securities had increased because no auction was held in December.
However, he said the increase in rate for the one-year bills was due to the government's move to increase the volume of T-bills offered at the fortnightly auctions.
The government had increased the 364-day T-bill volume offered at every auction from 3.0 bln.
(1 usd = 55.41 pesos)
|Manila shares close sharply up led by PLDT; key index at 33-mth high|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed sharply higher on the year's first trading day, with gains in select blue chips led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) and Globe Telecom lifting the key index to a 33-month high, dealers said.
The positive sentiment in regional equities markets over the past few days spilled over to the local bourse, boosting interest in stocks that are expected to sustain their strong earnings performance in 2004.
The composite index closed up 44.97 points, or 3.12 pct, at the session's high of 1,487.34 on volume of 195.96 mln shares valued at 774.36 mln pesos. It hit a low of 1,457.06 during the session.
It is the index's strongest finish since March 20, 2001, when it closed at 1,491.54.
In the broader market, gainers led losers 47 to 10, while 33 stocks were unchanged.
The market was also lifted by gains in Equitable PCI Bank and Banco de Oro Universal Bank, which followed the latter's announcement on Friday that it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 29 pct stake held by state-run pension fund Social Security System in Equitable PCI at a 30-pct premium over its 2003 closing price of 33.50 pesos per share.
PLDT rose 50 pesos to 1,020 on volume of 225,330 shares on expectations it will sustain its strong earnings performance this year, and following a hefty 0.68 usd gain in its American Depositary Receipts on Wall Street last Friday.
Globe rose 50 to 910 on 90,790 shares.
"We're off to a good start for the year. We're taking the cue from the strong showing of equities markets in the region and even in the US during the past few days," Accord Capital Equities analyst Lawrence de Leon said.
"There are expectations that emerging markets like the Philippines will continue to post gains this year on the back of a global economic recovery," he said.
De Leon noted that the first quarter of the year normally sees the local market performing on a positive note due to optimism that usually prevails at the start of the year.
He said pre-election political uncertainties are in the backburner for the meantime, but will weigh on sentiment in the coming days, as the May elections draw near.
Profit-taking is thus expected to follow as investors maintain their short-term positions.
But the market's momentum could bring the index up to 1,500-point level, especially after it broke the 1,480-point resistance level, analysts said.
Banco de Oro intends to buy SSS's Equitable shares at an effective price of 43.50 each, or a total of about 14 bln pesos. But it added that the price could go higher depending on the outcome of a possible tender offer to other Equitable shareholders.
Equitable rose 5.00 to 38.50, off highs as Banco de Oro said it has no plans of merging with the bank at the moment.
De Leon said Banco de Oro's investment in Equitable could just be a short-term one, and that could be the reason investors were quick to lock in some profits.
Banco de Oro rose 0.75 to 18.50 on 458,200 shares.
SM Prime was up 0.30 at 6.80 on 11.88 mln shares.
Bank of the Philippine Islands was up 1.00 at 47.50.
Manila Electric B, available to foreign investors, was up 0.75 at 25 and Meralco A up 0.50 at 15.50.
Meralco's 0.12 peso per kilowatthour provisional rate hike has been in effect from Jan 1, although the Energy Regulatory Commission is currently holding public hearings on the tariff adjustment and despite the appeals that several consumer groups have lodged against an increase in power rates.
Meralco expects the rate hike to boost its annual revenue by about 1.9 bln pesos.
Ayala Corp was up 0.20 at 5.40, while property unit Ayala Land was unchanged at 6.10.
Metrobank was up 1.00 at 28.50.
The all-shares index rose 17.54 points to 892.32.
The commercial-industrial index was up 62.37 at 2,247.60.
Property was up 13.22 at 584.57, and mining up 68.11 at 1,691.29.
Oil was unchanged at 1.21.
Banking and financial services gained 16.81 to 455.88.
(1 usd = 55.41 pesos)
|Philippine president files reelection bid, vows 'unprecedented' reforms|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine President Gloria Arroyo filed her candidacy for the May 2004 polls today, vowing unprecedented reforms including a shift to a parliamentary and federal form of government.
In a rousing speech to followers just before filing her certificate of candidacy, Arroyo pledged to crack down on corruption, drug abuse and terrorism, and promote economic recovery and wider government services.
She sought public support for her new Coalition of Honesty and Experience for the Future to bring about fundamental changes in the political system "so we can have a parliamentary and federal form of government."
A trained economist and veteran politician, Arroyo did not specify how the Philippines will make the transition from the existing centralized, US-style, bicameral form of government.
In recent years, there have been several attempts in Congress to change the Philippine constitution to a parliamentary and federal system of government.
However, civic groups and the influential Catholic church have blocked such a move due to fears that politicians may use the changes to entrench themselves in power.
With vice-presidential running-mate Senator-broadcaster Noli de Castro at her side, Arroyo showed renewed confidence, although recent surveys show she has an uphill battle for another term.
The surveys show Arroyo will come in third in the elections behind the main opposition bet movie-star Fernando Poe and independent candidate and former education secretary Raul Roco.
Poe, a close friend of deposed president Joseph Estrada, is hugely popular in this country, but in-fighting has hit the opposition with several key figures changing sides to Arroyo's camp.
Aside from the president's post, the elections will see contests for 12 of the 24 senate seats as well as governor, mayor and other local positions.
The filing of candidacy Monday turned into a virtual campaign rally for Arroyo and her senatorial slate, which includes several opposition figures who switched camps.
"I am married to our country," the 56-year-old grandmother said.
She said her coalition stood for "resolve, clout, the experience to save the economy, to do the unprecedented changes that will make us more secure and to overcome the strong forces trying to divide us."
Among the 11 figures Arroyo named to the administration's senatorial slate are movie stars-turned-government officials Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla, both of whom drew the loudest applause when they were named.
She also named Parouk Hussin, a former Muslim rebel leader-turned governor of a Muslim autonomous area and several prominent figures, who were formerly aligned with the opposition.
This is a sign of sincerity in the peace process with separatist rebels from the country's Muslim minority, she said.
A victory in the May elections would give Arroyo a six-year term, as well as a much-needed mandate following her controversial rise to power in 2001 when predecessor Estrada was toppled in a popular uprising spawned by a massive corruption crisis.
Arroyo, who was Estrada's vice-president, has been dogged by accusations that she is not the legitimate president. A military mutiny and violent protest marches have been mounted to unseat her.
|BROKER CALL - Singapore-listed Medtecs maintained as a 'buy' - Kim Eng|
SINGAPORE (AFX-ASIA) - Kim Eng Securities maintained its 'buy' call on Philippine-based laboratory gown and surgical masks supplier Medtecs International Corp as is seen as an undervalued stock and a hedge against SARS.
It has a price target of 0.36 sgd for the stock with no timeframe.
At 10:52 am, Medtecs was down 0.005 sgd or 1.82 pct at 0.27 sgd on volume of 1.47 mln shares.
Kim Eng Securities expects double digit growth in earnings for Medtecs over the next two financial years.
"The previous SARS episode enabled Medtecs to establish strong goodwill and rapport with government agencies and hospitals in Taiwan and Singapore," Kim Eng analyst Ng Hui Min said in a report.
"As a result of its heightened profile, the company has experienced time and cost savings while promoting in-house medical products within the region, " Ng added.
Ng said that while SARS has undeniably been the the key earnings impetus for the year to December 2003, Medtecs has also implemented new business initiatives to sustain growth.
"Sales to the US market are expected to expand as Medtecs produces additional new products for the existing customers ... In addition, Medtecs' low cost manufacturing sites have also enabled it to expand its market share in US and Europe. It has recently engaged a sub-contractor in Africa to exploit the duty and quota-free status of Africa's textile exports to the US, " Ng said in the report.
Ng added that Medtecs in diversifying into new growth industries.
"A global chip company has recently accredited Medtecs as an approved vendor. The endorsement is testament to the company's product quality and could pave the way for the group to penetrate into the semiconductor industry, " Ng said in the report.
Ng said that Medtecs' plant in Bataan, Philippines, which produces a wide range of medical products is presently running at optimal capacity on the back of higher business volume.
"We are optimistic of the medium to long-term growth prospects of Medtecs. The group's business model is defensive given the socio-demographic trend of ageing population and increasing demand for better healthcare standards in the Asia Pacific," Ng added in her report.
(1 usd = 1.70 sgd)
|Manila shares sharply up on telcos' gains, BDO's Equitable PCI buy-in deal|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices surged in the early part of the year's first trading day, led by gains in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT), on expectations of improved earnings and economic prospects in 2004, dealers said.
The market was also lifted by gains in Equitable PCI Bank and Banco de Oro, which followed the latter's announcement on Friday that it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 29 pct stake held by state-run pension fund Social Security System (SSS) in Equitable PCI, dealers said.
At 10.44 am, the composite index was up 34.59 points, or 2.40 pct, at 1, 476.96 on volume of 47.15 mln shares valued at 237.98. It has moved between 1, 457.06 and 1,477.79 so far.
In the broader market, gainers led losers 34 to 4, while 16 stocks were unchanged.
Expectations of a sustained strong earnings performance this year and a hefty 0.68 usd gain in its American Depositary Receipts on the year's first trading day on Wall Street pushed PLDT's price higher by 50 pesos to 1,020.
Banco de Oro will buy SSS's Equitable shares at an effective price of 43. 50 each or a total of about 14 bln pesos. Equitable PCI ended 2003 at 33.50.
Banco de Oro, however, said the price could go higher depending on the outcome of a possible tender offer to other Equitable shareholders.
(1 usd = 55.40 pesos)
|STOCKWATCH - Philippines' Equitable PCI firmer after Banco de Oro deal|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The share price of Equitable PCI Bank surged in mid-trade following Banco de Oro Universal Bank's (BDO) move to sign a letter of intent to buy a 29 pct stake held by state-run pension fund Social Security System (SSS) in the bank, dealers said.
At 10.21 am, Equitable PCI Bank was up 7.50 pesos or 22.39 pct at 41.00 on volume of 683,300 shares.
Banco de Oro was up 0.25 at 18 on 330,800 shares.
The composite index was up 31.43 points, or 2.18 pct, at 1,473.80.
BDO will buy the Equitable shares of SSS at an effective price of 43.50 pesos per share, or for a total of 14 bln pesos.
However, under the letter of intent, the purchase price may be adjusted upwards if the BDO Group acquires additional blocks of shares of Equitable PCI through a negotiated purchase within six months at a price higher than the agreed effective price.
Despite the deal, however, Banco de Oro told the stock exchange that it has no firm decision or agreement to merge with Equitable PCI.
AB Capital Securities research director Jose Vistan Jr said some punters returned to the market to acquire Equitable PCI shares following the BDO disclosure last Friday.
He said some investors are expecting BDO to make a tender offer to other Equitable PCI shareholders, which could push the stock's price higher than 43. 50 pesos per share.
"Some investors are speculating that the price could go beyond 43.50," he said.
Although BDO said it is not considering a merger with Equitable PCI at this point, Vistan is looking at the possibility of more mergers and consolidation in the local banking industry.
He said bigger banks may have to look for more acquisitions to be able to compete effectively.
"Investors are taking the cue from Banco de Oro in buying up Equitable shares. Banco de Oro obviously sees value in buying Equitable shares at 43.50, " said Westlink Global Equities chairman Rommel Macapagal.
"The deal will likely force other banks to look at other banks to strengthen themselves."
The BDO-SSS transaction is still subject to appropriate documentation and approval by the BDO board of directors, the confirmation of the resolution to sell Equitable PCI shares by SSS, and the approval by the central bank's Monetary Board and other regulatory agencies.
The group of shopping mall tycoon Henry Sy Sr, which controls BDO, is expected to become the single biggest shareholder of Equitable PCI following the deal, while the Go family, which founded the bank, will have a 24 pct stake.
(1 usd = 55.40 pesos)
|Philippines' Fil-Hispano approves acquisition of call center business|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Fil-Hispano Holdings Corp said its board of directors has approved the acquisition of All Asia Customer Service Holdings Ltd's (ASCH) local call center business in exchange for ACSH's controlling interest in Fil-Hispano.
ACSH is a limited liability company organized in Hong Kong while its call center business is being conducted by wholly-owned unit, Philippine-registered All Asia Customer Service Inc (ACSI).
In a disclosure to the stock exchange, Fil-Hispano said its board of directors has approved an increase in its authorized capital to 600 mln pesos from 60 mln pesos to enable it to acquire ACSI. The shares will be subscribed by ACSH Ltd at par value.
It also approved the incorporation of a new subsidiary to be named Fil-Hispano Corp to hold its properties in Calauan.
The board also declared a cash dividend of 0.35 pesos and a property dividend of one share for every Fil-Hispano shares held for stockholders on record as of January 15.
After the board meeting, Fil-Hispano and ACSH entered into a subscription agreement, wherein ACSH shall initially subscribe at par for 135 mln Fil-Hispano shares out of the capital stock increase. It will initially pay 85 mln pesos while the balance of 50 mln would be paid later.
ACSH would also subscribe to 414.12 mln shares of Fil-Hispano's unissued authorized capital stock at par. The subscription will be paid through an assign ment of shares of Advanced Contact Solutions Inc, which will be the new owner of ACSH's call center business.
Fil-Hispano and Advanced Contact Solutions entered into a subscription agreement for 1.35 bln shares of the latter worth 135 mln pesos.
(1 usd = 55.46 pesos)
|Philippine National Bank set to issue 2.2 bln pesos of subordinated notes|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine National Bank said its board of directors has given management the go ahead to issue up to 2.2 bln pesos worth of subordinated notes.
The 2.2-bln peso tranche shall form part of the original 140 mln usd unsecured debts issue, which the central bank approved late last year, the bank said in a disclosure to the stock exchange.
The first tranche will mature on January 2015.
It did not say when the notes will be issued.
PNB earlier said it will use proceeds from the notes issue to raise its Tier 2 capital.
The bank has appointed JP Morgan Securities Ltd as sole arranger of the transaction, and has tapped Multinational Investment Bancorporation as selling agent.
Equitable PCI Bank's Trust Department has been appointed as trustee, paying agent and custodian.
(1 usd = 55.46 pesos)
|Philippines' Arroyo, running mate de Castro file candidacies for May polls|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Incumbent President Gloria Arroyo today filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) for the presidential election in May, along with her vice-presidential running mate, broadcaster-turned-senator Noli de Castro.
Arroyo and de Castro were accompanied by the administration's senatorial candidates in filing their COCs at the Commission on Elections.
Today is the last day for filing of COCs.
|STOCK ALERT - Philippines' PLDT firmer early on ADR gain, earnings outlook|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Dominant carrier Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) was firmer in early trade, breaking a major resistance level of 1, 000 pesos per share, on further hefty gains of its American Depositary Receipts (ADR) in New York on Friday, dealers said.
Robust earnings outlook for the full-year 2003 and the current year on the back of its wireless unit's strong performance continue to lift sentiment on the stock, dealers added.
At 9.35 am, PLDT was top-traded and up 35.00 pesos at 1,005 on 6,620 shares.
Last Friday, its ADRs closed up 0.68 usd at 18.10, which is equivalent to its current trading price.
Investors shrugged off news that PLDT is expects to have incurred a net loss of 1.0 bln pesos from its fixed line business in 2003.
Despite the poor subscriber take-up of its fixed line unit, the company is optimistic its overall net profit in 2003 will hit 9.0-10.0 bln pesos, thanks to the sustained strong performance of its wireless business.
(1 usd = 55.50 pesos)
|Philippine stock exchange lifts trading suspension on NextStage|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Trading in shares of NextStage Inc is to resume today after suspension from Dec 19, the Philippine Stock Exchange said.
The PSE had approved the cement producer's request for an indefinite trading suspension of its shares as it sought the Securities and Exchange Commission's approval for a quasi-reorganization aimed at wiping out its deficit, which amounted to 184.15 mln pesos as of end-2002.
The company, formerly known as Pacific Cement Co Inc, has applied for a decrease in capital with the SEC via a reduction of its par value to 0.20 pesos from 1.00 peso.
NextStage last closed at 2.85 pesos.
(1 usd = 55.55 pesos)
|Philippines hopes to win job contracts in Iraqi reconstruction|
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - President Gloria Arroyo has said she hopes to win job contracts in Iraq for the Philippines' huge work force following the arrest of Baghdad's deposed leader Saddam Hussein.
Her government had backed the US-led invasion of Iraq last year and Filipino troops and medical workers have been sent to southern Iraq as part of the occupation forces.
"Now that Saddam Hussein has been arrested the Iraqi economy should be up and running in a short while and allies like the Philippines would benefit from new job opportunities that this would produce," she said in a radio address.
The US defense department announced last month it would expressly exclude countries that opposed the US-led war and invasion of Iraq from winning US-funded reconstruction contracts.
More than seven mln Filipinos live or work abroad, many of them in the Middle East.
|SARS - Battle against virus becomes more complex after China case|
---- by P. Parameswaran ----
MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - More than a year after its outbreak, experts are still attempting to unravel the mystery behind SARS and compounding the confusion is the latest suspected case of the killer disease in China.
The pneumonia-like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which surfaced in November 2002 killing nearly 800 people and infecting more than 8, 000, is known to be caused by a strain of the coronavirus, also responsible for the common cold.
Although the epidemic was brought under control in July last year, experts do not fully understand the behaviour of the virus which originated in south China's Guangdong province.
What many believe is that SARS is caused by an animal virus, but which animal is its natural reservoir or how the virus circulates among the animal population remain a puzzle.
Scientists also do not know how the virus jumped the species barrier from animal to humans, or whether the virus undergoes genetic changes to escape detection.
There is also no foolproof diagnostic kit or cure yet for SARS and the sole weapon against it is the centuries-old practice of detecting and isolating those who are infected and those who came into contact with them.
"Unless we have answers to all these questions, it is difficult to prevent transmission from animals to human completely or implement any specific control measures," Hitoshi Oshitani, WHO's Manila-based regional adviser on communicable disease surveillance and response, told Agence France Presse.
Oshitani is currently helping to coordinate the World Health Organization (WHO) probe into the status of a 32-year-old suspected SARS patient in Guangdong -- described as "an extraordinarily complex case" by the UN agency.
The male television producer is the world's latest possible case of the killer disease but experts are puzzled as to how he could have contracted it.
Both Singapore and Taiwan have reported one confirmed SARS case each since the epidemic petered out in July but the victims were people linked to laboratory research on the virus.
"In this latest case, we don't have any clue how he was infected and he doesn't have any risk factors or clear epidemiological links," Oshitani said.
"As far as we know, he didn't visit any laboratories a few weeks before the onset of the disease, he didn't have any contact with animals and also, the results on laboratory tests on him so far have been inconclusive."
Oshitani said initial tests had detected fragments of a virus gene similar to the SARS virus in only one among several samples taken from the patient.
But attempts to isolate and culture the whole virus using the particular sample has failed.
"It is strange that only one sample is positive and all others are negative," Oshitani said.
Under such circumstances, the ominous prospect of a mutation of the coronavirus or even laboratory contamination of the patient's samples during testing have been raised but Oshitani cautioned about jumping to conclusions.
In another attempt to unravel the mystery, experts have ordered a so-called virus neutralization test on the patient.
Although described as the "gold standard" serological examination for diagnosing any infection, the test is still constrained by certain disadvantages for a dangerous virus like SARS.
"This new case only demonstrates that we still don't have a proper diagnostic method that can easily identify or differentiate between coronavirus infections from other infections," Oshitani said.
But even if the latest case is confirmed as SARS, many questions will remain unanswered, he said, including whether the samples were contaminated in the laboratory where the SARS virus is cultured for research.
"We don't know how the patient was infected. That is the most important question."
If the contamination theory is ruled out, the authorities have to find out whether the patient contracted SARS through human or animal transmission.
The question of whether the virus originated from the same animal population allegedly responsible for the epidemic last year also has to be addressed.
Oshitani said that if not for the efficient surveillance system in China which managed to quickly identify and isolate the patient, he could have become a source of a massive infection.
"This shows that the surveillance system established after the epidemic last year is working and underlines the openness of the Chinese government in sharing all information with us," he added.
|At least 10 dead in southern Philippine bombing|
COTABATO, Philippines (AFX-ASIA) - At least 10 people were killed and 40 were wounded when a bomb tore through a packed sports hall staging a basketball game today in the southern Philippines, officials and police said.
The bomb exploded inside the crowded gymnasium in the town of Parang, Maguindanao province and apparently was aimed at killing the town mayor, Vivencio Bataga, police said.
"The mayor was wounded but he is fine. I saw 10 people dead," said town councilor Gaudencio Teves said, adding that 40 others were rushed to different hospitals.
Regional police chief Isnadji Bantala said he has ordered all officers in the town to "secure the place and pursue the suspects" but said no one has claimed responsibility.
"This is something political. Bataga survived similar attacks in the past, " he said.
Bataga is a former army colonel who is seeking re-election in the May 2004 polls, and police said he survived at least three attempts on his life last year.
"We condemn this attack. We believe this is politically motivated," he said. "Bataga is believed to be the target."