San Miguel eyes SM, Ayala as partners for Manila airport

By Rosemarie Francisco and Erik dela Cruz, Reuters

Posted at May 16 2014 09:21 AM | Updated as of May 16 2014 05:23 PM

MANILA - San Miguel Corp, the Philippines' most diversified conglomerate, has presented plans to build a new $10 billion international airport in Manila and is willing to take on partners for the project.

San Miguel President Ramon Ang said on Thursday the group was willing to invite partners such as SM Investments Corp and Ayala Corp, two of the country's biggest conglomerates, to join the project. He also said San Miguel was ready to face competing bids.

"Yes definitely," Ang told reporters when asked whether San Miguel will get a partner. "We are not yet in talks with anybody. I will invite Filipino partners. There are a number of world class companies like Shoemart (SM), Ayala."

"There are many possible partners and we are open to anybody," Ang said on the sidelines of a Philippine Airlines event, a company also partly owned and operated by San Miguel.

Ang said earlier on Thursday he had spoken to President Benigno Aquino about the airport proposal, which includes building four runways and an elevated toll road to connect the airport to the Makati financial district, as well as reclaiming more land. The new airport would be built on reclaimed land along Manila Bay to replace the capital's ageing and congested airport.

"You can be sure there will be no more traffic congestion for the next 30 years," Ang said regarding the new airport.

There was no immediate reaction from SM and Ayala groups, San Miguel's rivals in other big infrastructure projects previously tendered by the government.

News of the project was reported earlier by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said his department would request a more detailed presentation from San Miguel on its proposal.

Abaya had said that any proposal for a new airport would be subject to state scrutiny and the project open to competition. "Unsolicited proposal isn't illegal or prohibited, but again the bias is towards solicited, open, transparent bidding, which San Miguel is open to."

Ang said: "I am okay with a public bidding, for everybody to have an equal chance, equal opportunity to build this airport using the same location, the same idea, the same study." The project would be developed under a build-operate-transfer scheme that may run for 15 years, he said.

San Miguel wants to build the new airport on reclaimed land along Manila-Cavite Coastal Road, which is owned by CyberBay Corp, a company partly owned by Ang and where he previously sat as chairman.

CyberBay shares climbed as much as 12.8 percent on Thursday following the report before closing 5.13 percent higher. San Miguel fell as much as 1.8 percent but trimmed losses to close 0.4 percent lower.

The main index slid 0.45 percent.

Shares of CyberBay have risen more than 50 percent this year, eclipsing the more than 16 percent rise in the broader index. There has long been speculation that the company's reclaimed property would be used by San Miguel for the project.

San Miguel said last year it aimed to build the new international airport, which it said would replace Manila's decades-old Ninoy Aquino International Airport, one of the oldest in the region.