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COCKTALES | Bah, humbug! Banks, PSE want to eat Lopez, Phinma stock transfer business

PSE president Hans Sicat means BUSINESS

This is supposed to be the season of merrymaking, but the ghost of Christmas past has returned to cause some sleepless nights for the small cloistered world of the stock transfer business.

According to regulatory documents, the banking sector, aided by the Philippine Stock Exchange, has been working to monopolize the stock transfer business at the expense of the so-called non-bank players led by the Lopez and Phinma groups.

The issue has actually been festering since 2011, when the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a temporary restraining order on the PSE proposal requiring listed companies to "engage the services of a transfer agent that is a unit of a universal bank or commercial bank or a corporation owned by a universal bank or commercial bank."

The SEC also asked the PSE to show cause why it should not be sanctioned for not securing prior approval from the commission before implementing its new listing requirement.

"This requirement was adopted in order to protect the investing public and to ensure quality of service" because of the banks' higher capitalization than those of non-bank transfer agents, PSE president Hans Sicat said in his 2011 reply to the SEC.

Besides, the PSE board has the power to impose such an "interpretive guideline" under its self-regulatory status and thus need not seek the prior approval of SEC Chairman Teresita Herbosa and her agency, Sicat maintained.

"We acknowledge, however, that we should have provided notice of the proposed interpretation to the Commission ... and seek the indulgence of the Commission for this inadvertence," Sicat said.

According to the Philippine Association of Stock Transfer and Registry Agencies, a Phinma Group subsidiary, Stock Transfer Services Inc., would be hit hardest by the PSE proposal, with Phinma's 57 listed clients forced to be transferred to the bank-side competition.

The Lopez Group's Securities Transfer Services Inc. with 29 listed companies comes second, since the Lopez conglomerate like the Phinma Group also does not have a banking affiliate to keep the record-keeping business under the same family umbrella.

According to the grapevine, the industry association PASTRA has asked a non-bank affiliated member to write the SEC before the Christmas break to inquire about the status of the 2011 order, given the renewed industry chatter that certain PSE board members are pushing for the stock transfer proposal to finally be implemented by next year.

Per PASTRA records, a total of 129 listed companies still maintain their stock transfer and registry business with the non-bank group despite the five-year-old PSE proposal.

Another 147 listed companies maintain their stock transfer and registry business with banks, with BDO, cornering half at 73 clients, and RCBC, coming in second at 49, accounting for the lion's share of the backroom business.

Depending on the number of shareholders, the  monthly fee of a listed company for maintaining a stock transfer and registry account with an accredited company ranges anywhere from P10,000 to P60,000, loose change given banking revenues streaming in the billions.

Money talks

o The Chowking fast-food empire has managed to convince the tax court to overturn a 2010 order of then Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares imposing the Jollibee subsidiary nearly P125 million in deficiency taxes.

o The Insular Life Assurance Corp. has divested of its 10 percent stake in the thinly traded Keppel Philippine Holdings, in favor of another Keppel holding company, Kepwealth.

Heard through the grapevine

Metrobank chairman Arthur Ty spent most of his 13th month and Christmas bonus by acquiring about P47 million more bank stock to beef up his multi-billion stake in the family's crown jewel.