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FG Arroyo "behind" Alpha Land South Gate Mall in Makati

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posted August 16, 2009 11:54PM
greenarcher
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SPECIAL REPORT
PART 1 of 2: Eye for deals building Ongpin’s empire
By Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10/12/2008

“BOBBY ONGPIN IS BACK.”

This is a refrain heard over and over again nowadays among businessmen when they invariably get to talk about their local landscape.

They speak the words with admiration. But this tone of admiration is often mixed with undertones of more powerful feelings, like awe, amazement and sometimes even dread.

Indeed, the most common and conventionally acceptable reply to the Ongpin-is-back comment is, “Grabe ano?” followed sometimes by a slight shaking of the head or the clucking of tongues.

The awe-inspired, head-shaking and tongue-clucking peaked when an Ongpin-led group recently gained a slim majority on the board of petroleum refiner and distributor Petron Corp., buying out the shares of longtime owner Saudi Aramco and scooping up additional stocks from the public—a takeover coup which few observers saw coming.

The group is expanding aggressively in the real estate sector, using as their flagship project the Southgate building by the Magallanes interchange in Makati City which was, until recently, a 25-year-old unfinished eyesore.

Recently, it also unveiled a strategic move into Philex Mining Corp.—the country’s biggest gold and copper miner—with First Pacific Co. Ltd. led by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

All of the group’s moves were made with the help of its financial backer, UK-based Ashmore Group.

At present, the combined stake of Ongpin and his partners in various business interests is already worth an estimated P60 billion. The entire value of the firms they control is already more than double this amount and could easily treble in the coming years.

But who is Roberto V. Ongpin? And more importantly, what is he up to nowadays, as far as building a business empire is concerned?

Now 71 years old, Ongpin first shot to national prominence as the trade and industry minister of the Marcos administration from 1979 all the way until the Edsa Revolution of 1986.

In this role, he was viewed by many as one of the best and most competent technocrats of a decaying regime—one who helped “hold the fort” during a time of unprecedented local and global crises.

Armed with an MBA from Harvard Business School and a business administration degree (cum laude) from the Ateneo de Manila University, this certified public accountant joined SGV & Co. in 1964 and rose to the role of chair and managing partner six years later. He headed the country’s premier accounting firm until being asked to join the Marcos administration.

During the economic boom of the 1990s, Ongpin and his business partners transformed oil exploration firm Belle Resources into Belle Corp., which quickly became one of the country’s hottest stocks.

The company’s flagship Tagaytay Highlands leisure development—back then a revolutionary concept—put the company and its principals on the map previously dominated by established players.

Fast forward to the current decade.

After a falling out with his former Belle partners, Ongpin took control of yet another listed resources firm—South Seas Oil and Mineral Exploration Co.—and transformed it from an Internet firm, just as the dotcom boom collapsed, into the country’s first pure gaming play. He also extended his liking for backdoor entries into listed firms by taking over moribund Itogon-Suyoc Mines, changing it into ISM Communications to focus on information and communications technology.

It was around this time that the roots of his budding business empire took hold.

“What RVO (Ongpin’s initials) did was to make a big bet on the Philippines,” according to a close business associate who requested anonymity. “While the country was still in crisis [at the height of the Estrada political crisis], he stuck his heels to the ground and dug in.”

http://business.inquirer.net/money/t...Ongpins-buying

PART 2 of 2: Crisis not slowing Ongpin’s buying
By Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10/14/2008

Few people doubt the business acumen of Roberto V. Ongpin.

There are also a few who doubt that the expansion of his business empire—worth at least P60 billion in owned stock, plus control over market capitalization of a similar value—would be impossible without two elements.

The first is his alliance with UK-based emerging markets investment fund Ashmore Group. Through its arm that invests in so-called “special situations,” the firm has lent Ongpin the leveraging power of its $37.5-billion asset base. Ashmore, simply put, has been instrumental in all of the group’s deals and acquisitions.

A person familiar with the symbiotic relationship between Ongpin and Ashmore describes it this way: The former provides strategic vision, while the latter provides the cash to execute transactions.

It is here where the second critical element in Ongpin’s empire comes into play: The man responsible for merging the former Marcos trade minister’s vision with Ashmore’s financial muscle is former undersecretary of finance Eric O. Recto, Ongpin’s nephew.

Since leaving government service in 2005, Recto has overseen every single deal executed by the growing empire. While he nominally serves as vice chairman of the group, Recto functions more like a hyper-charged CEO who also oversees operations of firms where they are invested.

Under Recto, the group acquired a razor-thin majority in Petron Corp., trumping the bid of cash-rich Gokongwei group. People familiar with the deal told the Inquirer that the Ongpin-Ashmore alliance learned “very early on” and “way ahead of even the government” that Saudi Aramco was selling out of the company. This knowledge helped it prepare a superior bid and lay down a robust takeover plan that went beyond simply having the financial resources.

This nose for deals, combined with sheer bravado, also helped the group acquire what is now the Alphaland Southgate tower from the Puyat family for P1.3 billion earlier this year. Alphaland is spending an additional P1.2 billion to turn the 25-year-old structure into a business process outsourcing center and shopping mall.

The firm also bought a lot on Ayala Avenue in Makati City where it will build the “Ashmore Ayala Tower.” It entered into an agreement with the Boy Scouts of the Philippines to develop the Sime Darby property, also on Ayala, into a mixed-use development.

By next year, Alphaland will launch a 32-hectare project on the Manila Bay reclamation site (between SM Mall of Asia and Pagcor City) called the Alphaland Bay City, which will include a hotel in the middle of a marina, inspired by Dubai’s world-famous Burj Al Arab hotel.

The group has also entered the natural resource sector, with its drive to accumulate shares in Philex Mining Corp. Its accumulated 20-percent stake in the country’s largest mining firm was sold last week to Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. led by Manuel V. Pangilinan—a strategic investor which can infuse the additional capital necessary to raise Philex’s gold and copper output.

With success comes the inevitable murmuring on the group’s ties. It deals closely with Pangilinan, who also chairs Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., while speculation is also rife about its alleged ties with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

“They’re not hypocrites,” one business partner said of the Ongpin group’s methods. “They operate under an overriding business ethic, but they know how to work the local system, too.”

More importantly, however, the Ongpin group is unfazed by the ongoing global economic crisis and is taking the opportunity to expand its empire further, especially in the property, information technology and natural resource sectors.

In fact, it is likely to emerge even bigger once the dust settles in a few months.

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posted October 2, 2009 07:31AM
msnoriega
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eto yung bagong tayo na mall sa gilid ng magallanes MRT station di ba.kabubukas lang nyan eh
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posted October 2, 2009 09:04AM
greenarcher
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msnoriega posted on October 2, 2009 07:31AM
eto yung bagong tayo na mall sa gilid ng magallanes MRT station di ba.kabubukas lang nyan eh

yup yup...
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