COCKTALES | History repeats itself for Roberto Ongpin, nephew Eric Recto in Alphaland split

Roberto Ongpin, at the Senate, 14 November 2011. FILE PHOTO BY JAMIN VERDE means BUSINESS

History has just repeated itself -- to some quarters, a case of lightning striking twice -- for businessman Roberto Ongpin and his nephew, PBCom chairman Eric Recto.

When Ongpin was ousted during the Estrada years from the Belle/Tagaytay Highlands group, Recto, then a striving chief finance officer of Belle, was left behind to deal with the Chinoy principals.

Guess what? Recto has found himself again with the takeover group in last week's carve-out of the Alphaland Group that forced his uncle to surrender the listed firm's crown jewels to his low-key funders.

According to the grapevine, a new company, Bedfordbury Development Corp., has been formed by the Ashmore Group to take over the spin-off assets of Alphaland, with Recto as the chief local partner.

Asked how the London-based investment fund will manage to overcome the constitutional limitations on ownership of Philippine properties and companies, Recto answered:

"I have been their partner in Alphaland and will continue to be their partner in the new company we formed to take over the assets being divided."

Recto did not answer the second question seeking the identities of the other local partners, if there are any.

As earlier disclosed by Ongpin, Alphaland gave up the new 35-story Alphaland office building along Ayala Avenue, the marina yacht club, and the adjoining real estate venture in Pagcor City, and the still-to-be-developed resort-and-polo club project in Aklan, the price the Marcos-era trade minister has had to pay in exchange for peace with the Ashmore Group.

What remains of the listed Alphaland will also receive P2.5 billion from Ashmore as part of the divorce agreement.

Because of the split, Ongpin over the weekend offered the yacht club shareholders the chance to convert their shares into equivalent Alphaland City Club shares.

Ever the optimist, Ongpin said the value of the already operational City Club has already gone up to P1.5 million a share, as against the P1 million of the still hole-in-the-ground yacht club.

Purisima disempowered on PNCC

Cesar Purisima's advertorial pitch on empowering the common Filipinos was still playing on Bloomberg TV when the finance secretary last week lost his cool and publicly snapped at a Makati judge.

Regional Trial Court Judge Rommel Baybay had earlier ordered that, to protect the minority shareholders of the listed state-controlled Philippine National Construction Corp., the entire tollways collections be transferred out of the national government and remitted as provided for in the various tollway operations agreement to PNCC.

The Makati judge was acting on the petition of PNCC founder, Rodolfo Cuenca, whose erstwhile majority ownership had been reduced to 13 percent after the Marcos government ordered a debt-to-equity swap in 1983.

Cuenca's beef is that, aside from the government refusing to call a shareholders' meeting for three decades now, the P-Noy government like the previous administrations has not rendered any accounting of the tollways funds at all.

In finding for Cuenca, Baybay issued a writ of preliminary injunction against the Toll Regulatory Board, with the judge quoting the P-Noy-installed president of PNCC, Luis Sison, who had archly told the court, "we don't do creative accounting."

TRB happens to be an attached agency to the Department of Transportation and Communication, and the case involves, to quote the judge, "(the) payment of monies from one government entity to another" so it was baffling why Purisima bewailed that the government had ended up being shortchanged.

Even more so when all the government nominees to the PNCC board, if the government chatter is correct, all pass through Purisima.

Before the Baybay injunction, TRB had been allocating only 10 percent of the annual tollways remittance to PNCC.


o Pasig Regional Trial Court Judge Danilo Buemio has rejected the motion of Pacific Online president Willy Ocier and his gaming group to dismiss on technicality the revenue-sharing suit filed by the original proponents of the keno game whose operations the Ocier group has taken over.

o Rockwell Land president Nestor Padilla's creation of a "Primaries" subsidiary for condos and townhouses has run into a major legal blockade.

The Primary Homes/Primary Structures Group of the Liu family of Cebu have sued and won the first round of the trademark fight against the Lopez real estate company, with the Cebu group having registered the name in 2009, three years before Rockwell Land applied for a similar trademark registration.

Heard through the grapevine

The Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. is set to throw the book at the recidivist owners of a problematic thrift bank who apparently learned the tricks from their former principal shareholder whose fingers had already been caught in the proverbial cookie jar by the US authorities, no less.