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Lucio Tan: We’re not selling out

By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:52:00 04/14/2009

Filed Under: Company Information, Stock Activity, Litigation & Regulations

MANILA, Philippines?Chunks of shares in various companies under the Lucio Tan group have been anonymously placed on the block, prompting the tycoon to declare on Monday that there were no plans to sell or dilute his majority stake in any of the companies.

Industry sources told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Monday that the selling party was the family of the late lawyer Florencio Santos, a longtime friend and business associate of Tan who had been a minority stockholder since the companies were founded.

Put up for sale were shares in some of the country?s biggest companies like Fortune Tobacco Corp., Asia Brewery Inc., Allied Banking Corp., Philippine Airlines, Philippine National Bank, Eton Properties, Foremost Farms Inc. and Himmel Industries Inc.

An advertisement that appeared in the Inquirer Monday on Page B8 and titled ?Lucio Tan Group Shares for Sale? fueled a lot of speculation on the identity of the seller and the motivation behind the sale.

Forbes magazine has placed the net worth of Tan?s family at $1.4 billion.

One thing for sure

?Owners of the absolute majority shareholdings in the Lucio Tan Group of Companies led by business tycoon Lucio C. Tan are not selling or disposing of their shares,? the group said Monday in reaction to the advertisement.

?We do not know who among the minority shareholders placed the ad announcing their desire to unload their shares. But one thing is for sure: It?s not Mr. Lucio Tan. The shares he owns directly and those he holds by virtue of proxies assigned to him by other majority shareholders are not for sale,? the statement added.

Most of the companies listed in the ad were included in a civil case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government against the Lucio Tan group at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court after the EDSA people power revolt in 1986 that toppled the Marcos regime.

The sequestration order has been lifted but the ownership dispute is still being contested in the Sandiganbayan. The heirs of Ferdinand Marcos are staking a claim on the Tan companies.

The PCGG has been running after Tan since 1987.

Industry sources confirmed that the shares consisted of a ?minority? block but could not give an estimate of the number of shares for sale in each of the companies and the market price.

But other sources said the heirs of Santos, who had been part of the Lucio Tan group since the inception of most of its companies, had expressed intention to unload the shares when their patriarch died a few years ago.

One PAL board seat

The family, for instance, holds one board seat in Philippine Airlines represented by the patriarch?s son Cesar Santos.

The patriarch and his wife Natividad are among the respondents in the ongoing civil suit filed by the PCGG, which alleges that the companies were among the ill-gotten assets acquired during the Marcos dictatorship.

Substantial enough

Analysts said that while the shares may not be large enough to create a dent in Tan?s controlling stake in the companies, they may be substantial enough in peso terms to be placed on the block.

One analyst said the seller may have put the shares on the block in order to get the best price. The Lucio Tan group may end up buying these shares anyway, the analyst said.

Other analysts said the shares might have been already offered to the Lucio Tan group?as shareholder partnerships usually require a right of first refusal?but there may not be enough incentive for the group to rush into buying the shares.

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