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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
ASEAN forum agrees to boost co-operation in combating terrorism in transport
Singapore's Nera Tel gets 4.4 mln usd order from Philippines telco
Philippines, FedEx to sign 25-year Clark lease agreement April 11
Forex - Philippine peso closes at 6-week high on easing dollar demand
Philippine central bank accepts foreign banks' 500 mln usd loan offer
Philippines cuts tariffs on imported pork, soybeans - official
OUTLOOK - Philippine March CPI up 3.4-3.6 pct yr/yr on weak peso, costlier oil
Philippines' RCBC 2003 net profit 1.43 bln pesos, up 2.76 pct yr-on-yr
Philippines raises 200 mln usd for budget support via zero-coupon bond issue
Manila shares close higher on blue-chip buying; index at above 1,420
IMF sees Philippines' 2004 GDP at 4.5 pct, inflation at 4-5 pct
IMF raises Philippines' 2004 GDP growth to 4.5 pct; inflation seen at 4-5 pct
Philippines' Napocor issues 12.552 bln pesos worth of zero-coupon bonds
Manila shares higher on blue-chip buying; key index above 1,400
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' Meralco firmer on bargain-hunting, window-dressing
Manila shares firmer early on blue-chip buying; key index back above 1,400
Philippines, JBIC sign 58.6 mln usd loan deal
Manila shares - Mixed to higher amid weakening interest ahead of Easter break

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Philippines' Security Bank declares 0.20 pesos/shr cash div
Philippines sets 4-year T-bond coupon at 11.375 pct, raises 1.02 bln pesos
Philippines' Asian Terminals 2003 net profit down 39 pct on higher spending
Philippines March CPI seen up 3.4-3.6 pct yr/yr, says Buenaventura
Emirates Airlines increases weekly flights to Manila to 10
Philippines cancels 23 mln usd in ADB loans for land reform
Philippines' Arroyo says militant arrests avert 'Madrid-level' attacks
Philippines' PLDT names replacement for director Suzuki
Philippines textile industry urged to diversify to survive MFA end
Manila shares slightly firmer on technical bounce after Wall Street gains
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' SM Prime firmer after improved 2003 results
STOCK ALERT - Philippine San Miguel down as better results may be priced in
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' PLDT firmer on ADR gain, bullish earnings outlook
Philippines remain confident CalPERS will not pull out - report
Manila shares outlook - Mixed to higher on Wall Street gains
Philippine Seven sees annual revenue up 557 mln pesos on Binggo acquisition
Philippines' Philex Feb copper/gold/silver output gross value 288.3 mln pesos
Philippines' San Miguel Jan-Feb net profit up 16 pct

Monday, March 29, 2004
Philippines Nenaco plans to seek debt payment suspension
Philippines Metro Pacific approves Nenaco plan to seek debt payment suspension
Manila shares close mixed on lack of incentives; index at 3-mth low
Philippines' JG Summit share reclassification approved by SEC
Philippine Treasury to raise T-bill volume to 9.0 bln pesos in April
Manila shares flat mid-session on lack of leads
Philippines courting DaimlerChrysler investment
Philippine foreign currency deposits rise to 13.9 bln usd as of March 20
Philippines' PLDT sees 2004 net profit exceeding 18 bln pesos on Piltel deal
Philippines courting DaimlerChrysler investment - report
Philippines supports US on WTO chip complaint against China

March 24 -26 
March 22 - 23 
March 17 - 19 
March 13 - 16
March 10 - 12
March 8 - 9
March 3 - 5
March 1 - 2

 


 
ASEAN forum agrees to boost co-operation in combating terrorism in transport


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Members of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) agreed to boost co-operation to combat terrorism in the transport sector, just weeks after bomb attacks on commuter trains in Madrid left nearly 200 dead, a draft statement said.
     ARF members agreed to "jointly explore new forms and methods of combating terrorism in the transport sector" -- by road, rail, sea and air, as well as to boost the exchange of information on terror groups and their activities.
     Members will also move to improve methods for identifying members of terrorist groups that move in international routes.
     This would entail co-operation between law enforcement agencies in protecting travel documents and visa systems, according to the draft statement released at the end of a two-day conference in Manila.
     ARF members will also increase co-operation in preventing transportation systems from being targeted by terrorists or used as a means to "perpetuate terrorist activities" by moving arms, explosives and bio-chemical weapons, it added.
     "ARF participating states and organization will come up with plans to reinforce security measures in different modes of transport, in particular in the air, in light of the particular vulnerability of air transportation to terrorists," the statement said.
     The Manila conference comes two weeks after commuter trains were bombed in Madrid, leaving nearly 200 dead, and amid announcements by the Philippine government that it prevented a similar attack in Manila with the arrest of four local militants.
     The ARF is the only security forum in East Asia. It includes the 10 ASEAN countries, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and partners Japan, South and North Korea, China, India, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the European Union, Canada, the United States and Mongolia.
 

 
Singapore's Nera Tel gets 4.4 mln usd order from Philippines telco


     (Repeating to add ticker)
     SINGAPORE (AFX-ASIA) - Satellite communications equipment supplier Nera Telecommunications said it has received a 4.4 mln usd order from a Philippines cellular operator to supply digital radio equipment.
     It did not name the Philippines telco.
     (1 usd = 1.67 sgd)
     rosana.gulzar@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines, FedEx to sign 25-year Clark lease agreement April 11


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Federal Express Corp (FedEx) is to sign a 25-year lease agreement on April 11 with the Philippine authorities for its new cargo hub in the Asia-Pacific region, said Adelberto Yap, president and chief executive officer of Clark International Airport Corp.
     "Building the new Clark facility would entail about 450 mln usd in investments from FedEx," Yap said.
     The agreement covers a 50-hectare government site in Clark, Pampanga where it will relocate its regional hub once its contract with the authorities of Subic Bay, in nearby Zambales, expires in 2007.
     The signing will take place at FedEx headquarters in the US, Yap said.
     The announcement puts an end to speculation on whether FedEx will pull out from the Philippines.
     FedEx had earlier signed a letter of intent with the Guangzhou Airport Authority in China, allowing the company access to information to enable it to assess the suitability of Guangzhou as an express hub for Asia.
     The company however, said the letter of intent was a non-binding agreement, and that it had no immediate plans to relocate its Asia-Pacific hub from the Philippines.
     Yap said he will lead a Philippine team that will sign the lease agreement with FedEx in the US.
     Subic has been FedEx's Asia-Pacific hub over the last eight years. But the area's limitations in terms of space for expansion prompted the US freight company to consider moving to the 18-bln yuan airport in Guangzhou.
     Two FedEx aircraft had crashed at Subic because of runway miscalculation.
     Yap said FedEx's decision to keep its Asia-Pacific hub in the Philippines will result in additional revenue for the government in terms of taxes as well as provide employment.
     FedEx aims to have the Clark facility ready for operation two years before the Subic contract expires.
     "I think FedEx chose the Philippines over China because of the ease in doing business in the country aside from our skilled, yet cheap, labor that could easily adapt to the American way," Yap said.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Forex - Philippine peso closes at 6-week high on easing dollar demand


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The peso closed at its strongest level in six weeks against the US dollar, extending gains for the third day, as demand for greenbacks eased, dealers said.
     They added the peso continued to correct after weakening to a record 56. 45 on March 22, with the expected dollar inflows via fresh government and central bank borrowings helping ease worries about dwindling supply ahead of the May 10 presidential elections.
     The peso closed at 56.14 to the dollar after trading between 56.13 and 56. 30 on volume of 164.0 mln usd. It closed at 56.30 yesterday.
     It is the peso's strongest close since Feb 18, when it finished at 56.13.
     "People are unloading their dollars amid weak demand," a commercial bank dealer said, adding that the peso may trade tomorrow as high as 56.05.
     The possibility of the peso recovering to 55 levels, however, will depend on new developments both on the political and economic fronts and the regional currencies' performance against the US unit, the dealer said.
     The central bank said it has decided to accept a 500 mln usd loan offer from a group of foreign banks to refinance debt and meet general funding requirements.
     Central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura said the loan will boost the country's gross international reserves (GIR), which stood at 15.733 bln usd as of end-Feb, down from the previous month's 16.084 bln.
     The GIR drop had been attributed to debt service requirements of both the national government and the central bank.
     The central bank was, however, seen in the currency spot market unloading dollars from time to time in support of the weakening peso.
     The government, on the other hand, raised 200 mln usd this week through the issuance of 550-day zero-coupon bonds to cover its budgetary requirements.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippine central bank accepts foreign banks' 500 mln usd loan offer


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The central bank said it has decided to accept a group of foreign banks' offer of a 500 mln usd loan the proceeds of which will be used to refinance existing debt and meet general funding requirements.
      The lenders are HSBC Ltd, HSH Nordbank AG, Standard Chartered Bank, Mizuho Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, DBS Bank Ltd and Mitsubishi Securities (HK) Ltd.
     "The proposal is for a fully underwritten amount of 500 mln usd," the central bank said in a statement, adding that the facility's structure may be a three-year bullet repayment and/or a five-year amortizing loan with an average life of three years.
     Central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura said the loan will boost the Philippines' gross international reserves, which stood at 15.733 bln usd as of end-February, down from the previous month's 16.084 bln.
     The GIR decline had been attributed to debt service requirements of both the national government and the central bank.
     The central bank was, however, seen in the currency spot market unloading dollars from time to time in support of the weakening peso.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines cuts tariffs on imported pork, soybeans - official


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - President Gloria Arroyo has signed an executive order, reducing tariffs on pork and allowing duty-free imports of soybeans, said an official today.
     The directive signed last week will allow importers to bring in 10,000 tons of pork at a reduced tariff of 10 pct, while soybeans can be imported duty-free for six months, said Edgardo Maralit, a director at the government's tariff-regulating body.
     Agriculture officials said the recent outbreak of bird flu in Southeast Asia has dampened the demand for fowl and increased that for pork.
     Manila is eyeing South Korea and Europe as possible sources for pork imports, officials said.
 

 
OUTLOOK - Philippine March CPI up 3.4-3.6 pct yr/yr on weak peso, costlier oil


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippines' consumer price index (CPI) is expected to have gone up 3.4-3.6 pct year-on-year this month, versus February's 3.4 pct, reflecting the inflationary pressures stemming from the peso's weakness against the US dollar and increases in oil prices, economists said.
     The National Statistics Office will release the CPI data on April 6.
     The CPI's up trend is expected to continue, putting increasing pressure on the central bank to tighten its monetary policy, possibly through an interest rate hike, economists said.
     Apart from the widely expected weakening of the peso against the dollar to new record lows, amid growing political uncertainty ahead of the May 10 presidential elections, a jeepney fare adjustment the government approved this week is another source of inflationary pressures, economists said.
     "The central bank has been trying to keep key interest rates where they are right now, but the pressure (for it to tighten policy) is getting stronger," said Wong Chee Seng, regional economist at DBS Bank in Singapore.
     "The central bank may be forced to raise interest rates in the early part of the second half, since the US may also increase policy rates around that period."
     An interest rate hike may help mitigate inflationary pressures and provide support to the peso, but it is not good news for companies planning to borrow funds. It will, therefore, limit economic activity.
     Wong projected a CPI rise of 3.5 pct year-on-year for March.
     The central bank tightened its monetary policy early this year with a 200-basis point increase in the reserve requirement on deposits in a move to mop up some liquidity from banks.
     The higher reserve requirement helped stabilize the peso for a brief period, but, on March 22, the currency weakened to a new record low of 56.45 against the dollar, as pre-election political concerns pulled it down further.
     In support of the government's economic growth goal, the central bank has, however, kept its key overnight rates steady at 6.75 pct for borrowing and 9.00 pct for lending since last year, having deemed the inflation environment and outlook to be still looking manageable.
     However, the expected buildup in inflationary pressures in the months ahead is now forcing the central bank to review its policy.
     "We will see if the spike in inflation is greater than expected," central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura said yesterday.
     The central bank expects inflation this month to come in at 3.4-3.6 pct year-on-year and Buenaventura has said there has been "no significant event" in the month to push prices higher dramatically.
     At this point, however, the central bank still believes full-year inflation will come in within the government's 4.0-5.0 pct target.
     Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri, who sees headline inflation of 3. 6 pct year-on-year this month, based on the 1994 price series, said the fare hike will push inflation up 35 basis points.
     "Our estimate is that, for every peso fare hike, inflation will increase 50 basis points. So, the 0.63 peso fare, which will effectively cost consumers about 0.75 peso more, will have an impact of about 35 basis points on inflation," Neri said.
     However, he also remains confident that full-year inflation will be within the official target.
     Luz Lorenzo, an economist at ATR-Kim Eng Securities, has projected a March inflation rate of 3.5 pct year-on-year, "partly because of higher oil prices."
     Citing higher importation costs for crude, partly because of the weak peso, Oil companies have hiked pump prices four times in three months, the latest being the 0.60 peso per liter rise for gasoline last week.
     Jonas Ravelas, a market strategist for Banco de Oro Universal Bank, expects March inflation to come in at 3.4 pct year-on-year.
     The peso traded in the range of 56.255-56.300 to the dollar in the morning, against yesterday's close of 56.300.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines' RCBC 2003 net profit 1.43 bln pesos, up 2.76 pct yr-on-yr


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) said it posted a net profit of 1.43 bln pesos in 2003, up 2.76 pct from 1.39 bln the previous year, and above its 1.1 bln pesos target, on portfolio diversification and spending control.
     Net interest income rose 2.28 pct to 4.94 bln pesos, and non-interest income went up 2.92 pct to 5.61 bln pesos.
     Operating expenses increased by 1.82 pct to 6.86 bln pesos from the previous year's 6.73 bln.
     Return on equity for 2003 stood at 9.22 pct, it said.
     (1 usd = 56.27 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines raises 200 mln usd for budget support via zero-coupon bond issue


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The government has raised 200 mln usd through the issuance of 550-day zero-coupon bonds to cover its budgetary requirements, the Department of Finance announced.
     The bond issue was arranged and fully underwritten by HSBC and sold primarily to domestic investors.
     "We are pleased with the swift execution of this transaction. This bond issue demonstrates the government's commitment to lower its cost of funding and respond to enquiries from domestic investors," finance undersecretary Eric Recto said.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Manila shares close higher on blue-chip buying; index at above 1,420


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed higher, with the key index closing above the 1,420-point resistance level, on selective blue-chip buying following Wall Street's extended gains overnight, dealers said.
     They added that end of quarter window-dressing may have started, helping the local market, which has lagged behind regional markets, sustain momentum after breaking through the initial resistance level of 1,400 points.
     The composite index closed up 28.31 points or 2.03 pct at 1,424.33 on volume of 506.5 mln shares valued at 1.24 bln pesos, including cross sales worth 620.5 mln. It moved between 1,396.40 and 1,425.76.
     It is the index's strongest close since March 22, when it finished at 1, 431.67.
     In the broader market, gainers led losers 41 to 11, while 37 stocks were unchanged.
     Dealers said the peso's continuing recovery against the US dollar also provided a positive backdrop, with the local unit averaging 56.265 against the US currency at noon after falling to a record low of 56.45 last week.
     Security worries have also eased, they added, after President Gloria Arroyo announced yesterday that the government had foiled a Madrid-style attack in Manila with the arrest of four members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremist group and seizure of explosives.
     "We opened strongly on further gains in the US markets, and the momentum was sustained after we breached resistance at 1,400," Westlink Global Equities chairman Rommel Macapagal said.
     Gomer Tan, an analyst with Regina Capital Development Corp, sees the market's next resistance level at 1,450 points.
     "But it is uncertain if the market will enjoy gains tomorrow as strong as what we saw today. This rise is too fast, although sentiment is positive especially after yesterday's arrest of alleged terrorists," he said.
     Dealers said investors may lock in gains on caution ahead of next week's Easter break and amid prevailing political uncertainty in the run-up to the May 10 presidential elections.
     Philippine financial markets will be closed on April 7, 8 and 9 for the Easter holidays.
     Top-traded Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) was up 25 pesos at 950 on 441,700 shares, further ahead of its American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) which advanced 0.24 usd to 16.33 in New York last night.
     PLDT affiliate Pilipino Telephone, control of which may be acquired by PLDT's wholly-owned highly-profitable wireless unit, Smart Communications, was up 0.02 at 1.72 on 17.2 mln shares.
     SM Prime was up 0.20 at 5.90 on 35.3 mln shares, extending gains after the mall operator announced an 8.8 pct year-on-year rise in net profit to 4.2 bln pesos in 2003.
     The company, which currently has 17 malls in operation across the Philippines, said it will continue to expand over the next five years, with three new malls set to open this year.
     Ayala Corp was unchanged at 6.10 on 51.3 mln shares, while property unit Ayala Land was up 0.35 at 5.30 on 7.6 mln shares.
     Globe Telecom was up 30 at 820.
     Manila Electric Co's B shares, open to foreign investors, were up 0.25 at 24.25, while Meralco A was up 0.75 at 16.75.
     The all-shares index was up 8.64 points at 936.10.
     The commercial-industrial index rose 36.53 to 2,225.50.
     Property advanced 22.28 to 513.38, while mining gained 14.01 to 1,439.39.
     Oil was unchanged at 1.12.
     Banking and financial services closed 4.88 higher at 417.27.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
IMF sees Philippines' 2004 GDP at 4.5 pct, inflation at 4-5 pct


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it expects the Philippine economy to grow 4.5 pct this year, more upbeat than in December when it projected gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.25 pct.
     The government is aiming for GDP growth of 4.9-5.8 pct this year.
     In a statement issued in Washington, the IMF said the economic outlook for the Philippines is likely to remain subject to "considerable uncertainty" going forward.
     "In particular, the uncertain political environment, ahead of the elections, brings downside risks to the outlook," the Fund said.
     The Philippines will hold presidential and local elections on May 10.
     As for 2004 inflation in the Philippines, the IMF said it is likely to edge up, but should remain below, or within, the official target range of 4-5 pct.
     Early this month, the IMF's executive board concluded discussions on the economic situation in the Philippines, which remains under a post-program monitoring arrangement with the fund.
     This arrangement does not involve any financial assistance, unlike previous IMF-sponsored programs.
     In its assessment, the IMF executive board found the Philippines to have undertaken important economic reforms in recent years and its macroeconomic performance favorable, with sustained growth and declining inflation.
     However, the IMF said key areas of weakness and vulnerabilities remain, particularly the still large fiscal deficit and heavy debt burden, slow progress in structural reforms in the power and banking sectors, and the uncertain investment climate.
     "Directors have observed that, without comprehensive reforms, the economy's vulnerabilities will increase further," the IMF said.
     "They, therefore, underscored the urgent need for the authorities to implement comprehensive reforms, in order to set the country on a high and sustainable growth trajectory, reduce the still pervasive poverty, and improve debt sustainability and the economy's resilience to adverse shocks."
     The IMF also cautioned Philippine authorities against loosening policies in a pre-election environment.
     It said IMF directors have recommended a "more ambitious" budget deficit-reduction program for 2004 in order to "bolster the credibility of the government's fiscal strategy."
     They again urged the Philippine government to increase and index excise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, raise petroleum taxes and the value-added tax rate, and rationalize and limit tax incentives -- all aimed at improving revenue collections.
     They said the government should resist any proposals for a tax amnesty.
     The Philippines' fiscal managers have vowed to maintain the cautious fiscal stance the government adopted in 2003, as they aim to limit the full-year 2004 budget deficit to 197.8 bln, or about 4.2 pct of GDP.
     The budget deficit in 2003 came in at 199.9 bln pesos, or 4.6 pct of GDP.
     The government aims to balance the budget by 2009.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
IMF raises Philippines' 2004 GDP growth to 4.5 pct; inflation seen at 4-5 pct


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it expects the Philippine economy to grow 4.5 pct this year, more upbeat than in December when it projected gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.25 pct.
     The government is aiming for GDP growth of 4.9-5.8 pct this year.
     In a statement issued in Washington, the IMF said the economic outlook for the Philippines is likely to remain subject to "considerable uncertainty" going forward.
     "In particular, the uncertain political environment ahead of the elections brings downside risks to the outlook," the Fund said.
     The Philippines will hold presidential and local elections on May 10.
     Meanwhile, the IMF said Philippine inflation is likely to edge up, but should remain below, or within, the official target range of 4-5 pct for 2004.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com

 
Philippines' Napocor issues 12.552 bln pesos worth of zero-coupon bonds


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The National Power Corp (Napocor) said it issued 3. 752 bln pesos worth of zero-coupon bonds due 2009 and 8.8 bln pesos worth of such bonds due 2011, the first ever local currency issuance by the state-owned firm.
     Napocor will use the proceeds to partly cover its financing requirements for this year, including funding for debt servicing, importation, and payment of fees of its independent power producers.
     The bonds, which were rated Ba2 by Moody's Investors Service in line with the sovereign local currency rating, were offered by ING Bank NV on a private placement basis.
     Strong demand from institutional investors resulted in a more than 40 pct over-subscription and the pricing was done at the tighter end of the indicated range, Napocor said.
     The bonds due 2009 were priced at 50 basis points over the five-year MART 1 fixed-rate treasury notes rate, while the bonds due 2011 were priced at 62. 5 basis points over the seven-year MART 1 FXTN rate.
     "We are very pleased with the outcome of our first peso bond transaction. This structure is advantageous to Napocor as we were able to raise 5.64 bln pesos in cash, allowing us to diversify our funding source to include the local market, and at the same time allowing us to reduce our foreign currency exposure," Napocor president Rogelio Murga said.
     (1 usd = 56.28 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Manila shares higher on blue-chip buying; key index above 1,400


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices were up sharply mid-session, but off early highs after the key index broke the 1,420-point resistance level, on continued buying in select blue chips following Wall Street's extended gains overnight, dealers said.
     Quarter-end window-dressing may have started, helping the local market, which has lagged behind recent advances in regional markets, breach two resistance levels, dealers added.
     At 10.25 am, the composite index was up 22.71 points, or 1.63 pct, at 1, 418.73 on volume of 335.9 mln shares valued at 412.6 mln pesos. It has so far moved between 1,396.40 and 1,425.76.
     In the broader market, gainers led losers 24 to six, while 19 stocks were unchanged.
     Dealers said the peso's continuing recovery against the US dollar also provided a positive backdrop, with the local unit trading at an average 56. 278 against the greenback mid-morning after falling to a record 56.45 last week.
     "We opened strongly on further gains in the US markets, and the momentum has been sustained after we breached resistance at 1,400," Westlink Global Equities chairman Rommel Macapagal said.
     Security worries have also eased, he said, after President Gloria Arroyo announced yesterday that the government had foiled a Madrid-style attack on Manila with the arrest of four members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremist group and seizure of explosives.
     However, he said investors may have immediately locked in some gains on caution ahead of next week's Easter break and amid prevailing political uncertainty in the run-up to the May 10 presidential elections.
     Top-traded SM Prime was up 0.10 at 5.80 on 28.4 mln shares, extending gains after the mall operator announced an 8.8 pct year-on-year rise in net profit to 4.2 bln pesos in 2003.
     The company, which now has 17 operational malls across the Philippines, said it will continue its expansion drive in the next five years, with three new malls set to open this year.
     Ayala Corp was unchanged at 6.10, while property unit Ayala Land was up 0. 15 at 5.10.
     Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) was up 20 at 945, further ahead of its American Depositary Receipts which advanced 0.24 usd to 16.33 last night.
     PLDT affiliate Pilipino Telephone, control of which may be acquired PLDT's wholly-owned highly-profitable wireless unit, Smart Communications, was up 0.04 at 1.74.
     Manila Electric Co's B shares, open to foreign investors, were up 1.50 at 25.50, attracting bargain-hunters after falling below the support level of 25. 00 recently.
     Meralco A was up 1.00 pesos at 17.00.
     Petron Corp was up 0.10 at 2.75.
     (1 usd = 56.28 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
STOCK ALERT - Philippines' Meralco firmer on bargain-hunting, window-dressing


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Manila Electric Co's (Meralco) shares were firmer, attracting bargain-hunters in early trade amid possible quarter-end window-dressing, dealers said.
     Meralco B, open to foreign investors, was up 2.00 pesos at 26.00 on volume of 346,700 shares, after falling below the support level of 25.00 recently.
     Meralco A was up 1.00 pesos at 17.00 on volume of 5,000 shares.
     "There's positioning in blue chips and Meralco is one of them, having dropped to a bargain price level," Westlink Global Equities chairman Rommel Macapagal said.
     (1 usd = 56.28 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Manila shares firmer early on blue-chip buying; key index back above 1,400


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices were sharply higher early, pushing the key index above the 1,400 and 1,420 points resistance levels, as buying in select blue chips continued after Wall Street's extended gains overnight, dealers said.
     Quarter-end window-dressing may have started, helping the local market, which has lagged behind recent advances in regional markets, breach two resistance levels.
     At 10 am, the composite index was up 29.74 points, or 2.13 pct, at 1,425. 76 on volume of 111.3 mln shares valued at 368.7 mln pesos.
     In the broader market, gainers led losers 21 to four, with 13 stocks unchanged.
     Dealers said the security worries have also eased after President Gloria Arroyo announced yesterday that the government had foiled a Madrid-style attack on Manila with the arrest of four members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremist group and seizure of explosives.
     They, however, said investors may immediately lock in some gains on caution ahead of next week's Easter break and amid prevailing political uncertainty in the run-up to the May 10 presidential elections.
     (1 usd = 56.30 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines, JBIC sign 58.6 mln usd loan deal


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The government said it has signed a 58.6 mln usd loan agreement with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to finance an Arterial Road Bypass Project under Japan's 26th Yen Loan Package.
     The loan was offered at a concessional rate with a 30-year maturity inclusive of a 10-year grace period.
     The loan will finance the construction of two new bypass roads, three access roads, eight permanent bridges, one interchange, 19 intersections, eight underpass boxes and 117 cross drainage along the existing urban sections of the Maharlika Highway/Cagayan Valley Road of the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway in Plaridel, Bulacan and Cabanatuan City.
     (1 usd = 56.30 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Manila shares - Mixed to higher amid weakening interest ahead of Easter break


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices are expected to open mixed to higher on an extended buying following Wall Streets gains overnight, but volumes will likely remain weak ahead of next week's Easter break, dealers said.
     They added investors will trade cautiously as the May 10 presidential elections draw closer.
     Philippine financial markets will be closed on April 7, 8 and 9 for the Easter holidays.
     Yesterday, the composite index closed up 7.87 points or 0.57 pct at 1,396. 02.
     "The market is expected to move sideways with an upward bias, as bargain-hunters may be inspired by gains in the US markets," First Grade Holdings managing director Astro del Castillo said.
     Investors, however, will remain cautious, he said, given pre-election political concerns, although security worries have somewhat eased.
     President Gloria Arroyo announced yesterday that the government has foiled a "Madrid-level" attack on Manila with the arrest of four members of the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf extremist group and the seizure of explosives.
     The market's resistance level is seen at 1,420 while support is at 1,350.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines' Security Bank declares 0.20 pesos/shr cash div


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Security Bank said its board of directors has approved a 0.20 pesos per share cash dividend.
     Record and payments dates will be set when the bank receives a notice of approval from the central bank.
     (1 usd = 56.30 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines sets 4-year T-bond coupon at 11.375 pct, raises 1.02 bln pesos


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The government set the coupon rate for four-year Treasury bonds at 11.375 pct at today's auction, and made a partial award of 1.02 bln pesos against an offering of 3.5 bln.
     The Bureau of Treasury said it rejected some of the offers as banks continued to push interest rates higher with the peso trading near its record low of 56.45 to the US dollar ahead of the May 10 presidential elections.
     The peso closed today at 56.30 to the dollar, firmer than yesterday's finish of 56.365.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines' Asian Terminals 2003 net profit down 39 pct on higher spending


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Asian Terminals Inc said its net profit fell 39 pct to 389.5 mln pesos in 2003 from the previous year's 640.67 mln, after the port operator spent heavily on capacity building programs.
     The company said its investments last year, aimed at ensuring long-term growth, resulted in an increase of 408.0 mln pesos in the cost of port facilities and equipment, compared with the 82.84 mln incurred in 2002.
     Revenues from ports and non-ports businesses remained steady at 3.58 bln pesos in 2003 from the previous year's 3.52 bln.
     "Asian Terminals pursued programmed investments for port modernization and capacity building in 2003, further elevating standards in port security and operational efficiency to world's best practice while remaining prudent on account of marginal growth in Philippine import and export volumes," the company said in a statement.
     "Asian Terminals expanded port facilities at Manila's South Harbor, acquired cargo handling equipment for the Port of Batangas, and invested in training and equipment in preparation for the compliance to the ISPS (International Ship and Port Facilities Security) Code under the IMO (International Maritime Organization)."
     Its South Harbor operations saw a 7.0 pct growth in container volume to 656,625 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) last year from 614,309 TEUs in 2002.
     The improvement is above the government's projection of a 6.5 pct growth, Asian Terminals noted.
     (1 usd = 56.37 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines March CPI seen up 3.4-3.6 pct yr/yr, says Buenaventura


     (Updating with economic planning secretary's comments on fare hike)
     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Consumer prices in March are expected to rise 3.4-3.6 pct year-on-year, against the 3.4 pct rise recorded in February, central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura said.
     He said he saw "no significant event" this month to dramatically push prices higher.
     The National Statistics Office will release the March consumer price index (CPI) data on April 6.
     Central bank officials, however, believe that the newly-approved public transport fare adjustment announced by the government will add to inflationary pressures in the coming months.
     The government refused to call it a fare hike.
     Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairwoman Maria Elena Bautista said the government had brought back the reckoning point of the minimum fare to the first four kilometers. In late 2000, the LTFRB granted jeepney groups a 50-centavo fare increase but changed the minimum fare distance to five kilometers.
     The fare adjustment agreement helped avert what could have been a nationwide public transport strike.
     With the agreement between the government and transport groups, the minimum fare or the fare for the first four kilometers would stay at 4.00 pesos. But each succeeding kilometer costs an additional 0.63 peso, resulting in a 4.63 pesos fare for the first five kilometers.
     Still, the central bank believes that full-year inflation will settle within the 4.0-5.0 pct target of the government.
     Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri last week said higher oil prices and a weaker peso will likely push the country's headline CPI up 3.6 pct year-on-year in March, based on the 1994 price series.
     He agreed that the fare hike will push inflation higher by 35 basis points.
     "Our estimate is that for every peso fare hike, inflation would increase by 50 basis points. So the 63-centavo fare that would effectively cost consumers about 75 centavos more would have an impact of about 35 basis points to inflation," Neri said.
     However he is also confident that full-year inflation will settle within the official target, despite the expected acceleration in consumer price increases in the months before the May 10 presidential elections.
     The peso traded in the 56.330-56.390 range against the US dollar in the morning, near its record low of 56.450.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Emirates Airlines increases weekly flights to Manila to 10


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Emirates Airlines said it has added two weekly flights to Manila, bringing the number of services per week from Dubai to the Philippines to 10 as the company continues to take advantage of the gradual recovery of the aviation industry.
     The company has also started flying on a daily basis to Osaka, Japan, from the previous four times a week.
     Richard Vaughan, Emirates' senior vice president for commercial operations, said the expansion indicates the importance of the Philippines to the Dubai-based airline.
     Some 80,000 Filipinos work in Dubai.
     "Asia Pacific is an important region for Emirates. We are increasing capacity on several routes to meet strong demand for our services in the region," the airline official said.
     In March last year, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates signed an air services agreement allowing their flag carriers to service the Manila-Dubai route nine times a week.
     But a special arrangement between the two countries allows the increase in frequency during periods of increased traffic.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines cancels 23 mln usd in ADB loans for land reform


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA)- The Philippines has cancelled 23 mln usd in loans to its land reform program from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) due to sharp foreign exchange fluctuations, an official said.
     Chito Cruz, project manager of the Department of Agrarian Reform, said the loans were cancelled to save on commitment fees.
     The loans were granted when the Philippine peso was averaging 42 to the US dollar, but the local currency has since plummeted to 56.37.
     The ADB offered no comment on the matter when contacted by Agence France Presse.
 

 
Philippines' Arroyo says militant arrests avert 'Madrid-level' attacks


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippines has foiled a "Madrid-level" attack on Manila with the arrest of four members of an al-Qaeda linked extremist group and the seizure of explosives, President Gloria Arroyo said.
     "We have pre-empted a Madrid-level attack on the metropolis by capturing an explosive cache of 80 pounds (36 kilograms)," Arroyo told reporters, comparing the plot to the March 11 Madrid bombings that claimed almost 200 lives.
     The explosive cache "was intended to be used for bombing (shopping) malls and trains in Metropolitan Manila," she said, adding that the four members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group are in custody.
     "The most dangerous terrorist cell of the Abu Sayyaf has been dismantled, " Arroyo said, crediting a police-military task force. She did not identify the suspects or say when they were arrested.
     Security officials later said the suspects had been arrested in raids in the suburbs of Manila. They had apparently relocated to the capital from the south after the government cracked down on kidnappings there.
     The Abu Sayyaf is a Muslim kidnapping group based in the southern Philippines that has been linked by both Washington and Manila to the al-Qaeda network of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.
     Arroyo said among those arrested was an Abu Sayyaf member who personally beheaded an American hostage Guillermo Sobero in a kidnapping spree in 2001 and the perpetrators of a bombing in the southern city of Zamboanga in 2002 that killed a US serviceman.
     She also said the members had been implicated in other kidnappings of Christians and foreigners in the south including the abduction of 21 foreigners and Filipinos from a resort in Sipadan, Malaysia in 2000.
     Most of these hostages were recovered only after hefty ransom was paid.
     Arroyo also said one of those arrested had claimed to be behind an explosion that caused a fire on a ferry in Manila bay last month, killing more than 100 people
     The government had previously doubted Abu Sayyaf claims they were behind the ferry incident but Arroyo said she is ordering fresh investigations.
     "Let no one or no nation underestimate our determination to finish off the Abu Sayyaf, the JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) and the al-Qaeda cells in our country," Arroyo said, promising that pursuit of the rest of the Abu Sayyaf will be "relentless."
     Military chief General Narciso Abaya said it is estimated that there are about 400 Abu Sayyaf still active, most of them in the jungles of the southern Philippine islands.
     The government has been hunting down the Abu Sayyaf as well as other rebel groups believed linked to the JI, thought to be the Southeast Asian arm of al-Qaeda.
 

 
Philippines' PLDT names replacement for director Suzuki


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) said its board has elected Shigeru Yoshida to succeed Taketo Suzuki as company director effective March 31.
     The company did not disclose the reason for Suzuki's resignation, but said this is not expected to have any significant impact on the company's current or future operations, financial position or results of operation.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

Philippines textile industry urged to diversify to survive MFA end


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine garment and textile industry will need to consolidate and diversify if it is to survive once the international multi-fibre arrangement (MFA) is phased out in January, an industry executive said today.
     Chona Felix, divisional head for trade policy with the Garment and Textile Export Board, told AFP that the ending of the agreement will have an impact on the local Philippine industry.
     Garments and textiles are the Philippine's second biggest revenue earner next to electronics and contribute about 8 pct to the country's total export earnings. Last year garment and textile exports were worth 2.8 bln usd.
     According to Felix there are over 1,000 garment and textile manufacturers in the Philippines employing over 400,000 people.
     "There is no questioning the fact that the industry will have to consolidate and diversify if it is to survive," she said.
     "Many of the small- to medium-sized manufacturers will probably leave the industry while the bigger firms consolidate, and we hope, absorb some of the workers who will find themselves out of work."
     Felix admitted that many industry players are not sure just how big an impact the ending of the MFA will have and said "many are adopting a wait and see attitude.
     "There is no way the local industry can compete with China in say basic garments but we can diversify into other areas of the industry which require value added skills and services, and into niche areas."
     Some 76 pct of garment and textile exports from the Philippines goes to the US.
     The MFA, established in 1975, allocates quotas of clothing and textiles that developing nations with cheap labour can export to rich countries.
     A study by McKinsey consultants for DHL released in India this month showed China could account for half the world's clothing and textile exports by 2008, up from 21.6 pct in 2000, with the ending of the MFA.
     The rest of Asia would see their share of the world trade fall to 20.1 pct in 2008 from 31.9 pct in 2000, according to the report.
 

 

Manila shares slightly firmer on technical bounce after Wall Street gains


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed firmer on a technical bounce in a mixed session, following two days of declines, as Wall Street's overnight gains inspired selective buying, dealers said.
     However, investors stayed largely sidelined on caution ahead of the Easter break next week and amid growing concerns in the run-up to the presidential elections on May 10, they said.
     The composite index closed up 7.87 points, or 0.57 pct, at 1,396.02 on volume of 144.8 mln shares worth 401.6 mln pesos. It moved between 1,388.38 and 1,397.32 points.
     In the broader market, there were 21 gainers and as many losers, while 45 stocks were unchanged.
     "The market staged a technical bounce after the US markets closed higher last night," said Ron Rodrigo, a research consultant at Accord Capital Equities.
     "But you can't expect a significant upside during this period, given that we're approaching Easter, amid rising pre-election concerns," said Elena Ponceca, research head at Unicapital Securities.
     Analysts said the market will continue to move sideways in the coming days, with the bias largely negative as investors prefer to stay liquid.
     The 1,400-point level proved to be a strong resistance barrier, they added.
     Top-traded Ayala Corp was unchanged at 6.10 pesos on volume of 13.8 mln shares, with a boost to turnover from cross sales worth 80.7 mln pesos.
     Second most active Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) was up 20 at 925 on 72,120 shares after its American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) rose 0. 23 usd to 16.09 in New York overnight.
     The stock also saw support on the more bullish earnings prospects for this year stemming from wholly-owned wireless unit Smart Communications Inc's possible acquisition of wireless affiliate Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel).
     PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan earlier said the company's 2004 net profit is expected to exceed an initial forecast of 18 bln pesos should Smart acquire debts and controlling stake of Piltel. PLDT posted a net profit of 11. 2 bln pesos in 2003.
     If it pushes through, the Smart-Piltel transaction will pave the way for Smart to gain a backdoor listing on the local bourse. Under its franchise deal, it has until this August to offer its shares to the public.
     Pangilinan said acquiring Piltel will boost Smart's earnings as much as 2 bln pesos per year.
     Piltel was up 0.04 at 1.70 on 6.1 mln shares.
     Manila Electric B, available to foreign investors, was down 1.00 at 24, breaking support at 25, while Meralco A was unchanged at 16.00.
     Mall operator SM Prime Holdings was up 0.20 at 5.70 on 4.1 mln shares after announcing that its 2003 net profit rose 8.8 pct year-on-year to 4.2 bln pesos, as the opening of new malls boosted revenue.
     The company, which now has 17 operational malls across the Philippines, said it will continue its expansion drive in the next five years, with three new malls set to open this year.
     Manila Jockey Club was down 0.50 at 6.50 on cross sales of 3.3 mln shares worth 21.59 mln pesos.
     Globe Telecom was down 5.00 at 790.
     iPeople Inc was down 0.06 at 1.04 on cross sales of 15.8 mln shares worth 16.8 mln pesos.
     The all-shares index was up 17.38 points at 927.46.
     The commercial-industrial index rose 12.59 to 2,188.97.
     Property was up 7.77 at 491.10, while mining advanced 7.41 to 1,425.38.
     Oil was unchanged at 1.12.
     Banking and financial services shed 2.26 to 412.39.
     (1 usd = 56.37 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 

STOCK ALERT - Philippines' SM Prime firmer after improved 2003 results


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Mall operator SM Prime Holdings was firmer in early trade after announcing that its net profit rose 8.8 pct year-on-year in 2003 with the opening of new malls, dealers said.
     SM Prime was up 0.10 peso at 5.60 on volume of 682,000 shares.
     However, volume was thin, reflecting investors' lack of interest to trade ahead of next week's Easter break and the May 10 presidential elections.
     SM Prime posted a net profit of 4.2 bln pesos in 2003 against the previous year's 3.86 bln.
     The company, which now has 17 operational malls across the Philippines, said it will continue its expansion drive in the next five years, with three new malls set to open this year.
     (1 usd = 56.38 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
STOCK ALERT - Philippine San Miguel down as better results may be priced in


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - San Miguel Corp shares were weaker in early trade as investors may have already priced in improved results for the food and beverage conglomerate for this year, dealers said.
     San Miguel A was down 0.50 peso at 56 on 104,600 shares, while San Miguel B was down 0.50 at 69 on 7,800 shares.
     "The market may have already factored in better results for San Miguel this year," said Elena Ponceca, research head at Unicapital Securities.
     San Miguel said yesterday its net profit in the first two months of the year exceeded the 1-bln peso mark, a rise of 16 pct from 918 mln pesos in the same period last year, on increased sales mainly from the beverage business segment.
     Dealers said there has also been a general lack of interest to trade ahead of next week's Easter break and the May 10 presidential elections.
     San Miguel said it is well positioned to sustain its growth momentum while it takes advantage of additional consumer spending this election year.
     (1 usd = 56.39 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

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


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) shares were firmer in early trade after its American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) rose in New York overnight, dealers said.
     The stock is also seeing support on the more bullish earnings prospects for this year stemming from wholly-owned wireless unit Smart Communications Inc's possible acquisition of wireless affiliate Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel).
     PLDT was top-traded on 33,890 shares and up 15 pesos at 920.
     Its ADRs rose 0.23 usd to 16.09 last night.
     Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said he expects PLDT's 2004 net profit to exceed an initial forecast of 18 bln pesos if Smart acquires Piltel's debts and controlling stake.
     Pangilinan said there has been positive feedback from Piltel creditors, whom Smart has asked to sell or swap their Piltel debts for Smart-issued bonds or sovereign bonds.
     Smart also intends to acquire PLDT's 45 pct stake in Piltel.
     If the transactions proceed, the Smart-Piltel deal will pave the way for Smart to gain a backdoor listing on the local bourse.
     Under the terms of its franchise, it has until August to offer shares to the public.
     (1 usd = 56.39 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines remain confident CalPERS will not pull out - report


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine finance authorities are confident that the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) will retain the country on its list of permissible investment sites, BusinessWorld newspaper reported, citing an unidentified government source.
     The report said a group of Department of Finance officials led by assistant secretary Jeremias Paul met over the weekend with CalPERS consultant, Wilshire Consulting to seek clarification on the latter's computation of its investment rating.
     CalPERS early this month decided to postpone until April its vote on whether to keep the Philippines on its list of investment sites.
     Wilshire had given the Philippines failing marks for the third straight year even after the one-year "cure period" given to the country's authorities.
     The country was given low scores in areas of market practices and business conduct. The government argued that Wilshire based its recommendation on inaccurate data.
     Investors in Philippine equities are awaiting CalPERS' decision as its pullout may serve as a signal for institutional investors to also dump local stocks.
     Wilshire, in its latest assessment, had given the Philippines a total score of 1.86, better than last year's 1.46, but below the cut-off of 2.0 for CalPERS' qualified investments sites.
     The newspaper report said that according to its source, there is still a chance that Wilshire will reconsider its low score for the Philippines.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Manila shares outlook - Mixed to higher on Wall Street gains


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices are expected to open mixed to higher, with Wall Street's overnight gains likely to sustain bargain-hunting locally, dealers said.
     However, investors will remain cautious amid growing political uncertainties ahead of the May 10 presidential and local elections. They will also keep an eye on the peso, which has been trading again near its record low of 56.45 to the US dollar.
     Yesterday, the composite index closed up 3.25 points or 0.23 pct at 1,393. 12 after three days of losses.
     "Investors will continue to adopt a cautious stance given the backdrop of political and security uncertainties ahead of the May presidential elections, " BPI Securities said in its daily note.
     They will likely wait for first-quarter corporate results, which will be released from next month, before making their investment decisions, it added.
     "However, as share prices are near support levels, there might be some bargain hunting interest," BPI said.
     It sees market support at 1,385 and resistance at 1,450.
     (1 usd = 56.41 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippine Seven sees annual revenue up 557 mln pesos on Binggo acquisition


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Seven Corp, the local franchise holder of 7-Eleven Stores, expects a boost in annual revenue of up to 557 mln pesos from its acquisition of 39 Binggo 24-hour convenience stores from rival Jollimart Philippines Corp.
     Of the 39 Binggo stores, 35 will be converted into 7-Eleven Stores, Philippine Seven told the stock exchange.
     It is to buy the Binggo stores for 130 mln pesos, using funds from existing and approved credit line facilities.
     "The total purchase price considered ... the sales potential of the stores over a period of 10 years," Philippine Seven told the stock exchange, providing additional details on the transaction that was disclosed last week.
     Jollimart, a local company formed on June 29, 1999 to trade food, canned goods and other items on wholesale and retail basis, has signed a sale and purchase agreement with Philippine Seven.
     Philippine Seven said it has no material relationship with Jollimart, its directors and officers, or any of its affiliates.
     Philippine Seven booked a full-year 2003 net profit of 9.3 mln pesos, turning around from losses in the previous three years.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines' Philex Feb copper/gold/silver output gross value 288.3 mln pesos


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philex Mining Corp said it produced in February 1.32 mln kilograms of copper, 173,615 grams of gold and 198,201 grams of silver, with an estimated gross value of 288.3 mln pesos.
     The company had earlier reported output of 284.8 mln pesos in January.
     Shipments of copper concentrate in February were valued at 313.23 mln pesos, compared with January shipments worth 303.22 mln, Philex said in a statement to the stock exchange.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines' San Miguel Jan-Feb net profit up 16 pct


     (Updating with operating profit, beverage and domestic beer volumes)
     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - San Miguel Corp said its net profit in the first two months of the year breached the 1-bln peso mark, a rise of 16 pct from 918 mln pesos in the same period last year, on increased sales mainly from the beverage business segment.
     Consolidated net sales revenue for the January-February period surged 14 pct year-on-year to 24.4 bln pesos.
     The food and beverage conglomerate gave no exact figure for the net profit for the two-month period, but said it has already achieved close to 80 pct of its first quarter 2003 earnings forecast of 1.34 bln pesos.
     Operating profit came in at around 2.0 bln pesos, compared with 1.5 bln in the same period last year.
     "Clearly, it is evident the company is well poised to take advantage of additional consumer spending, given an election year. With programs and systems in place, the company is well positioned to sustain its growth momentum," San Miguel said in a statement.
     San Miguel sells nine out of every 10 bottles of beer consumed in the Philippines and has a growing presence in Asian markets, including China.
     It is also engaged in processed meat, poultry, packaging, soft drinks, liquor and bottled water businesses.
     The company said the robust trade turnover of its beverage business boosted sales volume during the two-month period.
     San Miguel's beverage business saw a 13 pct year-on-year increase in consolidated volume, with the domestic beer division leading the way on growth estimated at close to 30 pct year-on-year.
     The company's expansion program covers such markets as Thailand, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia and Taiwan.
     It intends to invest 100 mln usd in these markets for 300 mln usd boost to its annual revenue.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines Nenaco plans to seek debt payment suspension


     (Updating with Metro Pacific postponement of annual meeting, background)
     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Metro Pacific Corp said its board has approved the plan of its shipping unit, Negros Navigation Co (Nenaco), to file a petition with the Manila Regional Trial Court for a corporate rehabilitation and an immediate suspension of debt payments.
     "Metro Pacific believes that under a court-approved rehabilitation program, Nenaco will be able to effect an equitable and orderly financial and business restructuring effort, addressing its debts and trade payables of 2.5 bln pesos," Metro Pacific said in a disclosure to the stock exchange.
     Metro Pacific, a local unit of Hong Kong-listed First Pacific Co Ltd, currently holds 97.6 pct of Nenaco's outstanding shares.
     At the same time, Metro Pacific said it has postponed its annual stockholders' meeting to May 28 from April 30 in order to provide its auditors with sufficient time to complete and approve its 2003 audited financial statements, in light of developments involving Nenaco.
     Nenaco president and general manager Conrado Carballo last week said the company's negotiations with prospective investors have been delayed due to uncertainties arising from its dispute with its former ship repair and drydock provider, Japanese firm Tsuneishi Heavy Industries Inc.
     Nenaco was in debt repayment talks with Tsuneishi, which had initiated legal action against the shipping unit.
     Nenaco said the courts in metropolitan Cebu, however, ordered it and Tsuneishi to work together amicably to achieve a comprehensive repayment plan.
     The Japanese firm had reportedly filed garnishment proceedings against Nenaco, asking a Cebu court to freeze the shipping firm's account in Prudential Bank for failing to pay debts of 100 mln pesos.
     Tsuneishi is 20 pct-owned by Aboitiz and Company Inc.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines Metro Pacific approves Nenaco plan to seek debt payment suspension


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Metro Pacific Corp said its board has approved the plan of its shipping unit, Negros Navigation Co (Nenaco), to file a petition with the Manila Regional Trial Court for a corporate rehabilitation and an immediate suspension of debt payments.
     "Metro Pacific believes that under a court-approved rehabilitation program, Nenaco will be able to effect an equitable and orderly financial and business restructuring effort, addressing its debts and trade payables of 2.5 bln pesos," Metro Pacific said in a disclosure to the stock exchange.
     Metro Pacific, a local unit of Hong Kong-listed First Pacific Co Ltd, currently holds 97.6 pct of Nenaco's outstanding shares.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Manila shares close mixed on lack of incentives; index at 3-mth low


     (Updating with analyst quotes, prices)
     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices closed slightly lower in a mixed, lackluster session, pulling the key index down to its lowest finish since mid-December, with no fresh buying incentives to help sustain early bargain-hunting, dealers said.
     The composite index closed down 2.77 points, or 0.20 pct, at 1,388.15 on volume of 4.2 bln shares worth 275.5 mln pesos, with cross sales of 4.01 bln shares of lower-line Omico Corp boosting total turnover.
     The index, which moved between 1,385.16 and 1,392.81, finished at its weakest closing level since Dec 12 last year, when it closed at 1,383.32.
     In the broader market, gainers slightly led losers 21 to 19, with 36 stocks unchanged.
     There was little interest to trade ahead of next week's Easter break and amid prevailing political uncertainty in the run-up to the May 10 presidential elections, dealers said.
     Investors were also cautious, keeping an eye on the peso on expectations of its further weakening to new record lows against the US dollar in the coming days.
     At the Philippine Dealing System, the peso averaged 56.402 to the dollar at noon on volume of 28 mln usd, after closing at 56.425 on Friday.
     Dealers largely expect the peso to test 56.50 on increased dollar demand amid growing pre-election political concerns.
     "There's reduced trading activity ahead of the Easter break and in the absen ce of incentives to buy," Citiseconline.com analyst Mark Alan Canizares said.
     Analysts said investors are also waiting for the release of first quarter corporate results starting next month before making any significant moves on the market.
     Top-traded Globe Telecom was down 5.00 pesos at 795 on 54,400 shares.
     Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) was up 5.00 at 905 on 26,560 shares after PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan said the company's 2004 net profit is expected to exceed an initial forecast of 18 bln pesos should Smart Communications Inc acquire debts and controlling stake of Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel).
     Piltel was up 0.02 at 1.66 on 4.9 mln shares.
     Pangilinan said there was a positive feedback from Piltel creditors who have been asked by Smart, PLDT's wholly-owned wireless unit, to sell or swap their Piltel debts for Smart-issued bonds or sovereign bonds.
     Smart also intends to acquire PLDT's 45 pct stake in Piltel.
     If it pushes through, the Smart-Piltel transaction will pave the way for Smart to backdoor-list its shares on the local bourse. It has until August this year to offer its shares to the public under its franchise.
     Bank of the Philippine Islands was down 0.50 at 43.
     Omico Corp was unchanged at 0.0026.
     The all-shares index was down 1.59 points at 910.08.
     The commercial-industrial index rose 1.80 to 2,176.38.
     Property dropped 4.30 to 483.33, while mining advanced 21.71 to 1,417.97.
     Oil was unchanged at 1.12.
     Banking and financial services shed 3.40 to 414.65.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com
 

 
Philippines' JG Summit share reclassification approved by SEC


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - JG Summit Holdings Inc said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has approved the amendment to articles of incorporation for the reclassification of a portion of its unissued capital stock into preferred shares.
     JG Summit, which holds the Gokongwei family's investments in property development and mall operations, airlines, telecommunications, petrochemicals, food and textiles, plans to raise 800 mln pesos from the sale of preferred shares.
     It will use proceeds from the share sale to partly finance the group's capital expenditure requirements.
     Stockholders recently approved the issuance of 2 bln pesos worth of preferred shares, of which 800 mln worth will be sold to the public. The shares will have a par value of 1 peso each, will be non-convertible and will not carry voting rights.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com

 
Philippine Treasury to raise T-bill volume to 9.0 bln pesos in April


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The volume of Treasury bills offered at the fortnightly auctions will be raised to 9.0 bln pesos in April from 8.0 bln this month, the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) announced.
     The BTr will also increase the offering for T-bonds to 3.5 bln pesos from 3.0 bln at the weekly auction, starting with tomorrow's auction of four-year bonds.
     In a memorandum to government securities dealers, national treasurer Mina Figueroa said the government has raised by 500 mln pesos the volume of 182-day and 364-day T-bills to be offered next month to 3.0 bln and 2.5 bln, respectively.
     The volume of 91-day T-bills to be offered will be maintained at 3.5 bln.
     The move follows the BTr's decision to stop offering 42-day T-bills after a lack of interest in such an instrument in the two auctions conducted this month, as evident in the small volume of bids in the last auction.
     The government had decided to offer debt instruments with maturity shorter than the regular 91 days to satisfy market appetite for short-term instruments amid political uncertainty ahead of the May 10 presidential and local elections and the peso's weakness against the US dollar.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com

 
Manila shares flat mid-session on lack of leads


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Share prices were largely flat mid-session on a lack of fresh incentives, dealers said.
     Investors were also largely sidelined amid a listless, thin trade ahead of the Easter break next week and the May 10 presidential elections, they added.
     At 10.31 am, the composite index was down 1.69 points, or 0.12 pct, at 1, 389.23 on volume of 4.1 bln shares worth 98.0 mln pesos, with cross sales involving 4.0 bln shares of Omico Corp boosting total turnover.
     The index has so far moved between 1,389.45 and 1,392.81.
     In the broader market, gainers were ahead of losers nine to seven, with 21 stocks unchanged.
     "The market is just consolidating in the absence of fresh positive leads, " said Gomer Tan, an analyst with Regina Capital Development Corp.
     Top-traded Globe Telecom was down 5.00 pesos at 795 on 37,000 shares.
     Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) was up 5.00 at 905 after PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan said the company's 2004 net profit is expected to exceed an initial forecast of 18 bln pesos should Smart Communications Inc acquire debts and controlling stake of Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel).
     He said there was a positive feedback from Piltel creditors who have been asked by Smart, PLDT's wholly-owned wireless unit, to sell or swap their Piltel debts for Smart-issued bonds or sovereign bonds.
     Smart also intends to acquire PLDT's 45 pct stake in Piltel.
     If it pushes through, the Smart-Piltel transaction will pave the way for Smart to backdoor-list its shares on the local bourse. It has until August this year to offer its shares to the public under its franchise.
     Omico Corp was down 0.0002 at 0.0024.
     (1 usd = 56.40 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com

 
Philippines courting DaimlerChrysler investment


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine government is wooing luxury car manufacturer DaimlerChrysler AG to consider the country in its expansion plan in Asia, Trade and Industry Secretary Cesar Purisima said.
     Purisima recently attended a meeting in Malaysia between DaimlerChrysler executives and trade officials in Southeast Asia.
     He said, however, that the company has yet to make a decision on the Philippine invitation.
     "This company is always looking for opportunities for expansion and has identified Asean and China as growth areas," he told reporters.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com

 
Philippine foreign currency deposits rise to 13.9 bln usd as of March 20


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Foreign currency deposits in Philippine banks totalled 13.89 bln usd as of March 20, up from 12.77 bln as of end-March 2002, the central bank said.
     It attributed the increase to inflows from export earnings and remittances from Filipino workers overseas.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com

 
Philippines' PLDT sees 2004 net profit exceeding 18 bln pesos on Piltel deal


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) expects its 2004 net profit to exceed an initial forecast of 18 bln pesos should Smart Communications Inc acquire debts and controlling stake of Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel), PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan said.
     He said there was a positive feedback from Piltel creditors who have been asked by Smart, PLDT's wholly-owned wireless unit, to sell or swap their Piltel debts for Smart-issued bonds or sovereign bonds.
     Smart also intends to acquire PLDT's 45 pct stake in Piltel.
     If it pushes through, the Smart-Piltel transaction will pave the way for Smart to backdoor-list its shares on the local bourse. It has until August this year to offer its shares to the public under its franchise.
     Pangilinan said acquiring Piltel will boost Smart's profits by as much as 2 bln pesos per year.
     PLDT earlier reported an audited net profit of 11.2 bln pesos in 2003, more than triple the previous year's level, as Smart's earnings soared to 16. 1 bln, almost 10 bln more than in 2002.
     Pangilinan earlier said he was comfortable with analysts' forecast of a net profit of 17-18 bln pesos for PLDT this year.
     (1 usd = 56.425 pesos)
     afxmanila@afxasia.com

 
Philippines courting DaimlerChrysler investment - report


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippine government is wooing luxury car manufacturer DaimlerChrysler AG to consider the country in its expansion plan in Asia, Trade and Industry Secretary Cesar Purisima said.
     Purisima recently attended a meeting in Malaysia between DaimlerChrysler executives and trade officials in Southeast Asia.
     He said, however, that the company has yet to make a decision on the Philippine invitation.
     "This company is always looking for opportunities for expansion and has identified Asean and China as growth areas," he told reporters.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com

 
Philippines supports US on WTO chip complaint against China


     MANILA (AFX-ASIA) - The Philippines supports the US in its move to file a formal complaint before the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China's decision to slap higher taxes on imported semiconductors and extend tax breaks to Chinese chip makers, Trade and Industry Secretary Cesar Purisima said. "China's policy disrupts the level playing field and it is a concern to us even if our exports are still small," he said.
     The US is said to be preparing to lodge a complaint against China's move to impose a 17 pct tax on imported semiconductors. At the same time, the mainland has reportedly decided to grant a 14 pct tax rebate for China-produced semiconductors.
     afxmanila@afxasia.com


 

 


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