BIZ BUZZ: CUR­TAIN RAISER

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - —RON­NEL W. DOMINGO Email us at Biz Buzz@in­quirer.com.ph. Get busi­ness alerts and a pre­view of Biz Buzz the evening be­fore it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSI­NESS to 4467 (P.250/alert)

De­spite the re­cent global fi­nan­cial mar­ket tur­bu­lence caused by the COVID-19 pan­demic, young ty­coon Edgar “In­jap” Sia II is keen on push­ing through with the P1.6-bil­lion ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing (IPO) of his new baby, re­tailer Mer­ry­mart Con­sumer Corp.

The IPO has been ap­proved by the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion but is still await­ing ap­proval from the Philip­pine Stock Ex­change (PSE). Be­cause the PSE board is un­able to con­vene, the Mer­ry­mart IPO would likely pro­ceed “right af­ter the lock­down,” Sia told Biz Buzz.

“Hope­fully, we will be able to be ready right when the curve starts to shift pos­i­tively af­ter the lock­down,” Sia said.

As of press time, the mar­ket has shown re­newed vigor, driven by mas­sive pump-prim­ing mea­sures to counter COVID-19 fall­out in the United States and the rest of the world. COVID-19 is the dis­ease caused by the new coro­n­avirus.

Mer­ry­mart, which will list un­der the ticker MM, could thus be the first com­pany to de­but on the lo­cal stock mar­ket in this very chal­leng­ing year.

The re­tailer will of­fer up to 1.59 bil­lion worth of new com­mon shares at a max­i­mum price of P1 each, bring­ing to pub­lic hands up to 21 per­cent of its post-ipo stocks.

Mer­ry­mart’s 12-12-12 Vi­sion 2030 calls for the roll­out of 1,200 branches na­tion­wide, bring­ing in P120 bil­lion in sys­tem-wide sales rev­enues, to be­come one of the top three con­sumer com­pa­nies in the coun­try. —DORIS DUM­LAO-ABADILLA

Co­liv­ing op­tion

With the sus­pen­sion of pub­lic trans­porta­tion, in­stal­la­tion of nu­mer­ous check­points and cur­few re­stric­tions, com­mut­ing has be­come a big chal­lenge for peo­ple who still need to go to work—such as bank, hospi­tal, busi­ness process out­sourc­ing or food re­tail­ing work­ers. Dor­mi­tory liv­ing has thus be­come a po­ten­tial so­lu­tion for work­ers without pri­vate ve­hi­cles who still need to be mo­bile.

My­town, a co­liv­ing space serv­ing young pro­fes­sion­als in the BGC and Makati cen­tral busi­ness dis­tricts, has pitched tem­po­rary staff hous­ing for busi­nesses across the metro es­pe­cially those af­fected by the quar­an­tine and those who re­quire emer­gency staff ac­com­mo­da­tion as part of their busi­ness con­ti­nu­ity plans.

“De­spite the global pan­demic, it re­mains busi­ness as usual for many com­pa­nies. Not all em­ploy­ees can work from home, which poses fur­ther con­straints on pro­fes­sion­als and HR de­part­ments. There­fore, My­town now al­lows ac­com­mo­da­tion for busi­nesses who re­quire emer­gency short-term hous­ing for its em­ploy­ees dur­ing the quar­an­tine,” My­town said.

Out­side of the ma­jor cen­tral busi­ness dis­tricts, mom-and-pop dor­mi­to­ries have provided lodg­ing options to work­ers that keep es­sen­tial in­sti­tu­tions run­ning in this state of pub­lic health emer­gency. —DORIS DUM­LAO-ABADILLA

Pitching in

It’s com­mend­able that com­pa­nies large and small are open­ing their wal­lets to sup­port the seg­ments of so­ci­ety most in need dur­ing the un­fold­ing coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Or­di­nary cit­i­zens are also pitching in. Globe Tele­com re­cently an­nounced it raised P9 mil­lion from sub­scribers who have do­nated re­wards points they have ac­cu­mu­lated.

Globe turned over P14 mil­lion, in­clud­ing P5 mil­lion it had pledged, to the PGH Med­i­cal Foun­da­tion Inc. The money will help stretch the Philip­pine Gen­eral Hospi­tal’s lim­ited re­sources as its front-lin­ers bat­tle the dis­ease and save lives.

The funds were specif­i­cally used by the foun­da­tion to buy test kits, al­co­hol and com­plete sets of personal pro­tec­tive equip­ment, such as sur­gi­cal masks, face shields and sur­gi­cal gowns. Apart from cash, the telco do­nated 50 mo­bile phones pre­loaded with un­lim­ited calls and texts to all net­works valid for 30 days to health care front-lin­ers.

Lo­cal tel­cos Globe and PLDT are also step­ping up by pro­vid­ing free Wi-fi in hos­pi­tals, pro­vin­cial capi­tols and even su­per­mar­kets. —MIGUEL R. CA­MUS

ABS-CBN lends hand

Sev­eral of the coun­try’s largest busi­ness groups heeded

Pres­i­dent Duterte’s call for them to se­cure the welfare of their em­ploy­ees with the early re­lease of their 13th month pay as Lu­zon went un­der more strin­gent lock­down mea­sures.

Many of these com­pa­nies made the news and were rec­og­nized by the Department of La­bor and Em­ploy­ment. Cu­ri­ously miss­ing, how­ever, was me­dia gi­ant ABS-CBN Corp.

We heard ABS-CBN was, in fact, praised by sev­eral sec­tors for be­ing proac­tive early on in pre­sent­ing plans to wor­ried em­ploy­ees. These in­clude the la­bor group De­fend Jobs Philip­pines and the Philip­pine As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­agers Inc.

It seems ABS-CBN is com­pen­sat­ing work­ers af­fected by the can­cel­la­tion or sus­pen­sion of shows. The com­pany is also of­fer­ing more pay to those who con­tinue to re­port to work in these chal­leng­ing times.

Other perks are ac­com­mo­da­tion, food and vi­ta­mins to em­ploy­ees who re­main on duty. Most im­por­tantly, em­ploy­ees will still be paid while un­der manda­tory quar­an­tine and med­i­cal ex­penses will be shoul­dered should an em­ployee test pos­i­tive for the dreaded COVID-19.

No one knows how long the fight against this deadly virus will last. It’s good that big busi­nesses and their “oli­garch” bosses are one with the govern­ment in this bat­tle. —MIGUEL R. CA­MUS

Low demand

The shut­down of many com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial es­tab­lish­ments in the past sev­eral days has chopped off about a third of daily demand for elec­tric­ity in the Lu­zon grid. En­ergy Secretary Al­fonso

Cusi said that based on the Department of En­ergy’s mon­i­tor­ing, the en­hanced com­mu­nity quar­an­tine re­sulted in a re­duc­tion in elec­tric­ity demand of around 30 per­cent, com­pared with the same pe­riod last year. Cusi said this meant most of the eco­nomic activities have slowed down.

For 2020, the govern­ment’s aim is to nudge the econ­omy’s growth faster within the range of 6.5-7.5 per­cent. How­ever, the Na­tional Eco­nomic and De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity es­ti­mated the cri­sis has the po­ten­tial to pull down growth by 0.5 per­cent­age point to 1 per­cent­age point, as­sum­ing the pan­demic would last un­til the mid­dle of this year.

Lawrence Fer­nan­dez, Manila Elec­tric Co. vice pres­i­dent and head of util­ity eco­nom­ics, said they have noted a sim­i­lar, very sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in demand for power in the Mer­alco service area, com­pared to as re­cently as the week be­fore the com­mu­nity quar­an­tine was im­ple­mented. Mer­alco ac­counts for about three-quar­ters of power demand in Lu­zon, which in turn rep­re­sents about 70 per­cent of na­tion­wide demand.

Na­tional Grid Corp. of the Philip­pines (NGCP), the op­er­a­tor of the coun­try’s trans­mis­sion grid, ob­served a re­duc­tion of about 35 per­cent in the vol­ume of elec­tric­ity traf­fic in Lu­zon. NGCP spokesper­son Cyn­thia Perez-al­a­banza said the ex­pected demand was 11,000 megawatts on March 18, but ac­tual fig­ures showed 7,100 MW.

Cusi said quar­an­tine mea­sures could also lead to de­lays in the com­ple­tion of on­go­ing con­struc­tion of power pro­ject and re­pairs of ex­ist­ing ones.

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