Ongpin sells PBCom shares to nephew

by Zinnia B. Dela Peña, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 07 2013 09:18 AM | Updated as of Jan 07 2013 09:25 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Business tycoon Roberto V. Ongpin has sold all his shares in Philippine Bank of Communications for around P860 million in a move aimed at protecting the medium-sized lender from any undue harm after he criticized the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In a statement issued over the weekend, Ongpin said he sold to his nephew, Eric Recto, 6.13 million common shares and 15.36 million preferred shares of PBCom at P40 a piece, a steep discount to the stock’s market value. PBCom common shares were last traded on Jan. 2 at P79.80 each share.

The shares, representing 12.45 percent of the bank, were crossed through a special block sale at the local stock exchange Friday.

He said Recto, ranked 24th in the Forbes list of richest Filipinos with an estimated networth of $365 million,  made a 10-percent downpayment with the balance to be paid in three equal annual installments.

Recto is currently the chairman of PBCom, a post he assumed in May last year after Ongpin gave his nephew a bigger task of overseeing the bank.

 The divestment came in the heels of his resignation as director and co-chairman  of PBCom amid disappointment at the Monetary Board, the policy-making body of the BSP, for deferring action on his appointment due to his alleged involvement in criminal cases

“Since I have made public my criticism of the Monetary Board action in deferring my election to the board of PBCom, I believe that it is not sufficient that I only resign all of my positions in the bank but dispose of my shareholdings as well. I think that if I were to remain a major shareholder of PBCom, it is only natural to expect that there would be a bias by the Bangko Sentral against PBCom.  Therefore, in order not to unfairly prejudice the bank, I have decided to sell all my shareholdings in PBCom,” Ongpin said.

Ongpin said his planned filing of a criminal case against BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. has  “exacerbated the need to disassociate myself in every way from PBCom.”

 “I would like to make it clear, however, that I have no rancor whatsoever against the Bangko Sentral as an institution.  I believe that Bangko Sentral has done an outstanding job in the management of the currency and the banking system which has contributed immensely to the excellent financial health that our economy is now experiencing,” Ongpin pointed out.

Ongpin said he regreted having to sell out of the bank, which he believes has the “highest potential to be a very successful bank.”

PBCom delivered an impressive performance last year with earnings surging 80 percent in the nine months ending September to P824 million, mainly due to higher trading gains.

A group led by Ongpin took control of PBcom after acquiring a 97 percent stake in the bank for P4.7 billion in December 2011.  The bank used to be owned by the Chung, Luy and Nubla families.

Ongpin, the local partner of British investment fund Ashmore, has been investing heavily in Philippines in the past few years. A former trade minister during the Marcos administration, Ongpin is part of a group that controls the country’s largest conglomerate, San Miguel Corp. via Top Frontier Investment Holdings with a 37 percent stake.