Lopez: Fight for Meralco far from over


Posted at Jun 12 2008 12:43 PM | Updated as of Jun 12 2008 08:43 PM

The patriarch of the Lopez family, which controls the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), said that the fight for the distribution utility is far from over following the tension-filled annual stockholders' meeting last month.

"Let me say that the fight for control of Meralco is far from over. The case will be heard by the courts probably all the way to the Supreme Court," said Oscar Lopez, chairman and chief executive officer of Benpres Holdings Corp., during the firm's annual stockholders' meeting on Thursday.

Lopez, whose First Philippine Holdings Corporation owns 33.4 percent of Meralco shares, clarified that Benpres is not involved in the corporate battle for the utility.

"But nevertheless, Benpres is indirectly involved because it owns the controlling interest in First Holdings," he said.

Lopez described the May 27 stockholders' meeting at the Meralco Theater in Pasig City as "the most recent attempt by the government to take over Meralco" after the martial law regime held the company during the 1970s.

Lopez named the Securities and Exchange Commission and Winston Garcia, president and general manager of the Government Service Insurance System, as the "big vilains" in that annual gathering.

"In the months preceding the Annual Meeting, GSIS had been buying up Meralco shares until it had more than 25%. At the same time, it also conducted a strong solicitation campaign for proxies for the election for Directors," Lopez said.

By the day the stockholders' meeting arrived, Lopez said, GSIS still lacked the necessary proxies to elect at least six out of the 11-man Meralco board in order to gain control.

"At this point, GSIS devised a diabolical plan to steal the elections. It brought an official of the Securities and Exchange Commission who read an SEC order questioning, invalidating the proxies held by my brother Manolo as chairman of Meralco," Lopez said.

He added: "The most diabolical part of this plan was that the SEC order was read before all the Meralco stockholders only after the Corporate Secretary had declared an existence of a quorum for the annual meeting, and there were SEC officials ready to take over the conduct of the meeting and the elections."

Following the May 27 battle, Garcia said he is still keen on gaining control of Meralco through its board.

In fact, the GSIS chief told television interviews that he has interviewed several people to fill in vacancies that would be created in top Meralco management posts should the takeover succeed.

According to Garcia, the takeover plan aims to rid Meralco of incompetence and a bloated workforce.

He said that by taking over management, costs of electricity in Meralco franchise areas will be reduced, similar to rates in the Visayas.

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