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  April 16, 1999 April 15, 1999
April 4, 1999 March 30,1999 March 29,1999

AFX : (04/16/99)
Manila Shares Close Sharply Higher on Funds Inflow

Share prices closed sharply higher, with the composite index closing above 2,200 points, following the inflow of funds as the cut in banks liquid reserves requirement took effect today, dealers said. They said the market extended gains for the 11th straight session, and this reflected renewed investor confidence on the back of the fall in inflation and lending rates and rebound in the farm sector. The cut in the liquid reserve requirement to 4 pct from 5 pct released over 11 B pesos to the financial system. The composite index closed up 56.28 points, or 2.6 pct, at 2,233.64, a new 11-month high. It rose to as much as 2,239.97 on volume of 1.72 B shares worth 3.07 B pesos. The All Shares index was up 14.83 points at 709.62. Advances led declines 62 to 34, with 34 stocks unchanged. The commercial-industrial index rose 110.93 to 3,117.84 points, while property lost 12.78 to 866.95.

AFX : (04/16/99)
Piltel Rehabilitation Plan Not Yet Approved.

Philippine Commercial International Bank president Rafael Buenaventura said the creditor banks of Pilipino Telephone Corp has not yet approved the cellular phone company's proposed debt restructuring plan. "The headline in the newspaper may have been a little bit misleading... in the sense that it (the rehabilitation plan) has not been approved," he told in an interview with the SNN cable TV station. PCIBank is among the major domestic creditor banks of Piltel. At 10:31 am, Piltel was up 0.12 at 2.26 pesos. Buenaventura said what the creditor-banks agreed upon is that they will be willing to provide Piltel with more flexible repayment terms as long as interest payments are kept current. One of the "flexibilities" being considered is converting a portion of the debt into bonds that are in turn convertible to PLDT shares. "Basically, what the banks agreed to was that it was important that interest payments be kept current.

And in exchange for that, banks were quite willing to explore the possibility of increasing the amount that would be in the form of convertibles to lighten the load on their cashflow." "Basically, what we're telling Piltel is that their proposal, as suggested, needs to be improved," he added. Earlier, there were reports creditors are willing to convert half of Piltel's 10 B pesos loans into bonds. Buenaventura did not confirm if the amount is correct. Marubeni Corp has the biggest exposure in Piltel, which hired Marubeni to finance and install its 279 M usd landline project in Mindanao island. Buenaventura added creditors are willing to extend easier repayment terms for Piltel's loans to ensure the viability of its business and allow it pursue capital spending. This attitude "just shows there's a lot of faith in the viability of the group (Piltel and PLDT) as a whole."

The Philippine Stock Exchange said it temporarily suspended trading of Pilipino Telephone Corp, pending comment on a newspaper report saying creditor banks have approved its proposed rehabilitation plan.The PSE said it will lift the suspension 20 minutes after Piltel submits
its reaction to the report.

AFX : (04/16/99)
Urban Bank Seeking to Acquire TA Savings

Urban Bank is keen on acquiring TA Savings Bank in the hope of utilising the savings bank's expertise for Urban Bank's securitised housing loan programme, the Manila Times Urban Bank chairman Arsenio Bartolome as saying. "We haven't acquired it yet. We are still talking,"Bartolome said. He said Urban Bank is interested in TA Savings, which is owned by one of Malaysia's biggest stock brokerages, because of the value added the thrift bank can provide the commercial bank. This year, Urban Bank sees 30% growth in loan portfolio, most of which is to be provided by its securitisation programme. The Ever Gotesco Group has asked Urban Bank to restructure its 200 M pesos debt owed to the bank, the Manila Times reported, quoting Urban Bank comptroller Rebecca dela Cruz. "It's in the process of restrcturing. It's fully secured that is why we don't have any problem restructuring the account," dela Cruz said.

BW : (04/16/99)
ICTSI Finalizes Talks with Investment Firms

International Container Terminal Services, Inc. has finalized negotiations with the 2 foreign investment firms participating in the planned private placement of the company's 25% stake in ICTSI International Holdings, Inc.. "We've negotiated (with participants of) our private placement. Negotiations are done but we haven't acted on it because right now we don't have any progress and we don't need the money so we're just sitting on it. The deal is there and right now the status is we're just sitting on it. The private placement is a matter of implementing it. There are no more disagreements in the valuations," ICTSI president Enrique K. Razon, Jr. said during yesterday's stockholders' meeting. The ICTSI management has been in discussion with J.P. Morgan & Co. and Capital International for over a year now for the conclusion of the private placement which is expected to generate $50 million. "We've actually negotiated practically a final deal but right now we just want to keep all those open really.

The money will go for new projects but since we don't have any specific plans, there's really no pressing need to finalize it now. It is difficult to do the private placement now when you don't have an investment program. Immediately, we can't mobilize the funds to earn right away. So we feel that it's better to just sit on that and keep all the options within our reach," he said. He added that the company will continue to conduct private placement activities to raise funds in the near future to finance upcoming port projects overseas. Fund-raising for international ports will be done through IIHC. ICTSI is looking at development of 3 to 4 ports this year located mostly in Latin American countries such as Chile and Peru and in the Middle East -- particularly in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. "They're going to be the same, the usual countries that we've been looking at for the last couple of years, " he said.

BW : (04/16/99)
Shares of Equitable Bank Change Hands

About P388.415 M worth of Equitable Bank stocks changed hands yesterday through seven block sales at the PSE. Some analysts point to pension fund Social Security System as the possible buyer, as the institution is reportedly targetting a board seat in the bank, but others are saying it was SSS which sold its shares for a profit. As of September 30, 1998, SSS has about 2.7 M shares of stock or less than 1% stake in the bank. Yesterday's block sales involved 4.534 M shares of stock. Share prices of EBC opened at P83.50 and closed at P87. The bank's shares have been actively traded this past few weeks and its share prices have been steadily climbing this year. Between January and March, the bank's share prices hovered between P58.50 and P66. In mid-March, it went up to P69 per share.

PDI : (04/16/99)
RP Posts $497-M trade Surplus

The country posted a trade surplus of $497 M in the first two months of the year, a reversal of the $358 M deficit recorded in the same period last year. The National Statistics Office yesterday said the surplus was due to an 18.6% increase in export receipts as against the 14.2% drop in importations. NSO statistics showed that exports rose to $5.15 B from $4.34 B recorded last year. Imports were down to $4.65 B as of end February. The total trade of goods for the first two months of the year moved up by 0.4% to $9.8 B from $9.76 in the same period last year. For the ninth consecutive month, the Philippines managed to post a trade surplus as merchandise trade for the month of February also grew by 0.2% to $4.82 B from $4.81 B. Import payments fell by 12.8% to $2.25 B, while dollar inflows from exports in February increased by 15.4% to $2.57 B, from $2.23 B in the same month last year. Analysts said that the gap between exports and imports has narrowed down on monthÄonÄmonth basis.

Capital goods accounted for 40.9% of the total imports in February. This year's capital goods imports of $922.5 M, however, were down from $1.048 B in February last year. Expenditure for raw materials and intermediate goods were down by 17.8% to $881.4 M from $1.073 B in the same period last year. Telecommunications and industrial machinery were still among the top 10 imports in February accounting for $173.43 M and $156.97 M, respectively. Japan was the biggest source of imports during the month accounting for 23.6% of the total or $531.06 M. United States was the second biggest source of imports with a 20.7% share or $466.85 M while South Korea was third with $169.75 M.

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BW : (04/15/99)
AsianBank, PBCom Merger Final by June

The merger between AsianBank Corp. and the Philippine Bank of Communications is expected to be concluded by the middle of the year. This was revealed by A. Soriano Corp. chairman and CEO Andres Soriano III to reporters during the company's annual stockholders meeting yesterday. "They're on track," he said, referring to negotiations between the two banks. "We're about to finish the due diligence, and we're in the final traps of the shareholders' agreement, and everything seems to be on track." The merger, he said, will result in an P8 B capitalized bank that will rank among the top 10 financial institutions in the country. Asked to comment on rumors that
negotiations have hit a wall, he said that he was unaware of any significant difficulties. "If there was that, I think I would be advised. Last I checked two days ago, everything was on track," he added.

He stressed that the merger would be "basically a merger among equals" that would involve "more or less" a share swap of equal amounts. An AsianBank and PBCom marriage is ideal due to few overlaps in their activities and branch networks. "(The merger) is good, because it means that at the end of the day, you won't have to lay off people or close down branches," he said. "It's still on. In fact, we're meeting with them tomorrow," PBCom vice-president Francis Marcelo confirmed. "So the negotiation is still going on. There are no setbacks yet," he said in the vernacular. He said all merger-related activities were ongoing, as auditor Sycip, Gorres, Velayo & Co. was finalizing its due diligence report. "Valuations are being finalized," he added. "(We're sitting) down already to discuss the valuation and merger principles." Negotiations, Mr. Marcelo said, were following the original timetable, and that "everything should be in place by the end of June."

BW : (04/15/99)
Reserves Hit Record High of $13.2 Billion

The Bangko Sentral's (Central Bank of the Phils.) gross internal reserves (GIR) hit a new high of $13.196 B as of April 12, up from $12.9 B at the end of March. In a briefing for reporters last night, Bangko Sentral Gov. Gabriel Singson said the central bank boosted its reserves by buying dollars "from various sources. "He, however, refused to confirm or deny the central bank bought
dollars from the Philippine Dealing System (PDS), the country's electronic currencies exchange. The Bangko Sentral's dollar-buying operations can have a major impact on the peso-dollar exchange rate. Mr. Singson said the central bank bought dollars discreetly so as not to influence the peso-dollar rate. "Every time there is a buying opportunity, we buy to improve or increase our reserves (but) we buy dollars when it will not heavily influence the market." He denied the central bank was buying dollars to set the peso-dollar rate. "No, that is not the intention."

He did say that the Bangko Sentral bought "over $1.5 B" since the start of the year, but did not provide an exact figure. Mr. Singson the GIR is now equivalent to 5.4 months' worth of imports. "These are the highest reserves ever in the history of the country," he said. The Bangko Sentral has been steadily building up its reserves after these were depleted when it defended the peso against speculators at the height of the Asian currency crisis.

BW : (04/15/99)
SSS Continues Purchase of Metro Pacific Shares

State-owned pension fund Social Security System is reportedly increasing its holdings in listed diversified firm Metro Pacific Corp. The company yesterday reportedly bought 200 M shares at stock exchange. The block sales, consisting of 100 M shares each priced at P2.1 per share, amounted to P400 M and were transacted by ING Baring Securities and Anscor-Hagedorn Securities, Inc. Source tried to reach SSS and MPC officials for confirmation but they were unavailable as of press time. With the recent buy-in, a source from a brokerage house said the pension fund's stake in MPC now totalled 890 M shares equivalent to roughly 5.3% of MPC's outstanding capital stock of 16.87 B. SSS first bought large shareholdings in the listed holding firm in January involving 440 M shares worth P897 M. Its last purchase to yesterday's acquisition was in March totalling 250 M.

MPC said earlier in a statement that SSS is increasing its investment in the company since the latter sees positive prospects for the Fort Bonifacio Global City. "The increased investment of SSS in the overall MPC group provides affirmation of our vision to develop a world-class city within Fort Bonifacio in addition to our other strategic initiatives. SSS is becoming one of our most important supporters in achieving this vision, and we welcome them in MPC as one of our significant shareholders," MPC said.

PDI : (04/15/99)
GDP to Expand Higher than 0.5% in Q1, says Medalla

The country's gross domestic product could grow higher than 0.5% in the Q1 due to an improvement in the agriculture sector, Economic Planning Secretary Felipe Medalla said yesterday. In an interview after meeting with a visiting International Monetary Fund mission, Medalla expressed confidence GDP would expand by 2.6% to 3.1% this year. Medalla said Agriculture Secretary William Dar informed him on Tuesday that the production of rice and corn, the country's main staples, went up by 31% and 61%, respectively, in the first three months of the year. "The impact will be 2 percent of the entire economy," he told reporters. Prior to receiving Dar's report, Medalla was not as optimistic. He said earlier he would be happy just meeting the low end of the government's GDP target of between one percent and 3% under an IMF program. The government recently raised its internal GDP target range to 2.6% to 3.1%.

"It's a very good quarter. I'm back to my old assessment that wen could meet a 2.6% to 3.1% GDP growth this year," Medalla said. "If we get one percent or better, we can already hit 2.6%," he said. Asked what his first-quarter assessment would be considering the new development in the agriculture sector, Medalla replied, "We'll definitely do better than 0.5% of GDP." Medalla said although he had yet to receive any feedback from the other productive sectors of the economy, the strong performance of the agriculture sector should have a significant impact on the economy. The agriculture sector accounts for 20% of the entire economy. Improvements in rice and corn production, Medalla estimated, would account for 2%. Medalla said among the other sectors, the electricity sector was likely to be a drag on the economy. "Electricity may be slow not because of the economy but because of the weather. Because of the cooler climate, there is lower demand for electricity," he said.

TDY : (04/15/99)
SSS Ups Stake in Metro Pacific

State-run pension fund manager Social Security System (SSS) spent P402 M to raise its shareholdings in diversified conglomerate Metro Pacific Corp. (MPC) in a bid to acquire a company board seat. SSS bought 200 M shares of Metro Pacific at P2.10 a share at the PSE yesterday. The transaction was coursed through ING Baring Securities Phils. and Anscor Hagedorn Securities. With the acquisition, SSS effectively raised its shareholdings in MPC to almost 6% from 3.9%. Government financial institution Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), on the other hand, has a 0.8% stake in MPC. Its stake is equivalent to 150 M shares which it bought at P270 M. MPC will hold its annual stockholders meeting on April 28 where the company's board of directors will be elected. SSS said it made the acquisition as a long-term investment after a careful review of the company's fundamentals and long-term prospects.

SSS has been increasing its exposures in MPC projects particularly those concerning the transformation of a 214-hectare portion of Fort Bonifacio into a global city. SSS has invested in the bond issue of MPC's Bonifacio Land Corp., the partner of the state-run Bases Conversion Development Authority in Fort Bonifacio Development Corp. It has also acquired a stake in MPC's Capital Place which will house the unified trading floor of the PSE by the year 2004.

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AFX : (04/05/99)
Philippines Sees Average 1999 Inflation Between 8-9 pct

Inflation should average between 8 and 9 pct for 1999, amid stabilizing food prices, an official statement said. February's 9.9 pct inflation raised "hopes that the surge in consumer prices has abated, hopefully for good," the statement said citing a report by the Presidential Management Staff. "One encouraging note in the government's price stabilization drive is the fact that for the whole of 1998, the inflation rate averaged at nine percent, slightly lower than the 9.75 projection," the statement said. It said the National Food Authority has reported that prices in the first three months "remained stable" due to adequate stocks of rice.

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AFX : (03/30/99)
Philippine March CPI up 8.5-9.9 pct yr-on-yr

March CPI is expected to show a rise of 8.5-9.9 pct year-on-year after a gain of 9.9 pct in February, with slack consumer demand and adequate food supply preventing any acceleration in price rises, analysts said. They said the rate cuts implemented by the central bank during the month are unlikely to have resulted in any inflationary pressures, with most businesses looking to at best maintain rather than increase prices given current excess capacity. Barring any negative external developments or drastic change in weather patterns, inflation should now sustain its downtrend for the rest of the year, making it easy for the government to attain its 1999 CPI target of 8.0-9.0 pct. Far East Bank and Trust Co economist Emma Pante expects March CPI at 8.5-9.0 pct compared with 8.5 pct in March 1998, the biggest factor being the stable food supply.

Philippine March CPI up 8.5-9.9 pct yr-on-yr (cont.) "This assumes that the rise is constant if compared to last year due to a stable food supply," Pante said, noting that supply bottlenecks have not been seen despite the typhoons and flooding in the southern part of the country in late February. Analysts said timely imports augmented food supplies, negating the impact of flooding in the Lanao region in central Mindanao. Joey Cuyegkeng of ING Barings said month-on-month inflation "should be relatively flat" with both food and non-food items showing no significant price increases. "Inflation should remain on its downtrend. Oil prices are stable while construction activity is limited. Demand continues to be relatively weak," Cuyegkeng said. Analysts said the link between prices and an easier monetary policy is momentarily in abeyance given the wider slowdown in the economy.

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AFX : (03/29/99)
Philippine T-bill Avg Rates Lower, P5.0 B Offer Fully Awarded

The average rates for the 91-, 182-, and 364-day Treasury bills were lower, with the offer worth 5.0 B pesos fully taken, the Treasury bureau said. Tenders fell to 11.81 B pesos from 12.2 B a week earlier, with the bulk or 4.6 B, going to the one-year series and 4.4 B to the three-month bills. The bureau offered 1.5 B pesos each for the 91- and 182-day bills and 2.0 B pesos for the 364-day series. For the 91-day T-bills, the average rate fell to 11.784 pct from 11.917 pct, with done deals moving between 11.70 pct and 11.80 pct. The average rate for the 182-day series dropped to 11.953 pct from 12.112 pct after trading within a 11.90 pct and 12.0 pct. For the 364-day bills, the average rate declined to 12.241 pct from 12.394 pct after trading within the 12.20-12.275 pct range.