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March 12, 2009

Philippines telecom giant takes 10% stake in top power firm
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) has raised its stake in Manila Electric Co to 10 percent, AFP quoted the country's top power firm as saying Wednesday.

Manila Electric, or Meralco, said a PLDT pension fund and holding company had acquired a combined 10.17 percent stake. The utility's share price has soared over the past month on rumours of a hostile takeover by San Miguel Corp.

PLDT also confirmed talks with the Lopez family, which controls Meralco, after being ordered by the Philippine Stock Exchange to clarify reports it would increase its stake or even stage a buy-out.

"We advise there are currently ongoing discussions between PLDT and the Lopez Group but no agreement has yet been reached or signed between the parties," PLDT told the exchange in a disclosure. PLDT, the country's dominant telecom firm, "will make an appropriate disclosure as necessary," it added.

Meralco said over the past month, a PLDT pension fund called the Beneficial Trust Fund and New Gallant Ltd., a holding company based in the British Virgin Islands, have acquired the 10.17 percent stake.

The two entities plan to "nominate and elect a director" to Meralco's board at the next annual meeting on May 26, it told the Philippine Stock Exchange. The Lopez family and Manila-based San Miguel, Southeast Asia's biggest food and beverage company, each hold a 34 percent stake in Meralco and four seats on the 11-member board.

San Miguel has denied plans to oust the Lopez family. Local media have speculated PLDT could ride to the rescue of the Lopez family with a Meralco buy-in. San Miguel, which is shifting into heavy industries, acquired a 27 percent from a state pension fund last year and a seven percent stake from a local fund.

The Lopez group is one of the Philippines' major family-owned conglomerates, which controls, among others, broadcaster ABS-CBN and Sky Cable, and has interests in telecoms, power generation, banking, and property development.





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