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March 10, 2009

Philippines: San Miguel to acquire telecom firm
Southeast Asia’s largest food and beverage conglomerate will buy Express Telecommunications Co Inc (Extelcom) from the group led by businessman Roberto Ongpin and UK-based Ashmore Investment Management Ltd, reported Manila Times.

“We are buying the shares of major shareholders of the company [Extelcom]. [The] Ashmore-Ongpin group own the major shares, but they will be out together and all the shares of everybody else,” Ramon Ang, president and chief operating officer of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) said.

He said the talks are in the “final stage,” adding, “We will finalize the deal this month.”

The Ashmore-Onpin group is buying shares from the creditors of Extelcom, which is currently under corporate rehabilitation with a total outstanding debt of 9.017 billion peso.

Extelcom was majority owned by Marifil Holdings, which was in turn owned by Bayan Telecommunications Inc of the Lopez Group. But the Lopezes’ stake in Extelcom has been diluted from 46.62 percent to 8.39 percent after the debt-to-equity swap arising from the rehabilitation case. Bayan’s credit exposure to Extelcom stands at only 20.17 million peso.

SMC, earlier, signed an option agreement for the 50.1-percent stake of Ashmore in Petron Corp. for 32.2 billion peso. SMC also acquired the entire 27-percent stake of state-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) for a total of 26 billion peso.

SMC’s entry in the telecom industry is expected to raise the ante in an ongoing price war among Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), Globe Telecom Inc. and Digital Telecommunications Phils. Inc. (Digitel).
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