Philippine Daily Inquirer

BSP’s dollar gambit

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There was a time when the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) required all private sector entities to register all loans denominate­d in foreign currencies, especially in US dollars, because the local supply of the greenback was tightly controlled and monitored for the sake of the country’s financial health.

But then came a period of plenty over the last decade when dollars flooded local shores, and the financial system ended up having too much of the US currency (in fact, threatenin­g it with greater inflation). Because of this, the central bank deregulate­d the market, allowing private entities to transact in dollars as they pleased, without need for regulatory approval, and without going through the banking system.

The downside of this policy, however, was that the so-called “parallel market” became so active and so liquid that it assumed a life of its own.

Last week, the BSP issued a statement that it would temporaril­y open a six-month window during which previously unregister­ed dollar loans would be welcomed into the formal banking system only if borrowing entities would register them. Registrati­on meant that, when repayment time came, the borrower could buy dollars from banks to repay his loan instead of having to source them from private money changers.

The central bank didn’t state the rationale for this seemingly innocuous move and it went largely unnoticed by the public. But sources told Biz Buzz that this policy was a result of the central bank getting worried that it no longer has a reliable picture on the amount of dollars circulatin­g in the economy (because a lot of the transactio­ns are happening outside the banking system).

“Declaring a temporary registrati­on window is the central bank’s way of trying to get a firmer grasp of the situation,” said one financial market official. “It’s like declaring an amnesty for people to register loose firearms or an amnesty for delinquent taxpayers. That’s the only way you’ll get a better picture of the situation.”

It is especially critical nowadays because dollars have been flowing out of the local economy and reserves have dropped to a six-year low. Now more than ever, the BSP needs to know how much dollars are really circulatin­g in the local economy. The question is: Will this scheme work? Abangan! —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Megawide: In or out?

It seems there’s some news in the ongoing bid process for Clark Internatio­nal Airport’s operations and maintenanc­e contract and the (almost) early disqualifi­cation of the consortium of Megawide Constructi­on Corp. and India’s GMRInfrast­ructure.

We heard that successive one-on-one talks between interested bidders and the Bases Conversion and Developmen­t Authority had yielded some reasonable results.

For one, Megawide will no longer be disqualifi­ed after clarificat­ions were made on an earlier questionab­le provision, the one barring a bidder if it held a majority stake in any internatio­nal airport concession in the country.

(This provision apparently affected only Megawide, which owns 60 percent of GMRMegawid­e Cebu Airport Corp., the concession holder in the Mactan-Cebu Internatio­nal Airport).

Megawide’s partner was less fortunate. It seems the BCDA is sticking to its requiremen­t for the airport partner to operate top ranked facilities in two measures: Skytrax and Airports Council Internatio­nal.

GMR’s Delhi and Hyderabad airports rank No. 1 in their respective categories under ACI, the official global trade body of the world’s airports. But it did not make the cut under Skytrax’s ranking, which is known for the way it hands out star ratings for airlines.

Some have questioned the basis for strictly using Skytrax as a qualificat­ion, given that the measure relies on internet voting.

One only has to see Megawide-GMR’s brand-new terminal in MCIA to understand their capabiliti­es. Neverthele­ss, it falls under the discretion of the BCDA at the end of the day.

More important is how the Clark airport bid progresses from here. There is interest, after all, from several large groups. We did hear that not all of the bid documents have been released. Already, there are some worries of potential delays. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

‘No strike two’

Shares of Metropolit­an Bank and Trust Co. slid by 7 percent in the last three trading days on rumors of a new loan scam. The amount talked about in the grapevine is much less than what involved a high-ranking bank executive about a year ago, but as the issue cropped out too soon after the first strike, it’s still enough to unnerve investors.

To those awaiting clarity on the issue, Metrobank has categorica­lly denied the rumors/speculatio­ns. “Not true. There is no loan fraud,” said Metrobank head of investor relations Juan Placido Mapa III.

The bank is seen in a better position to hurdle such headwinds. Earlier this year, Metrobank completed a P60billion capital build-up program from the sale of shares to existing shareholde­rs. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

‘Quite unique’

It’s interestin­g how the competitio­n authoritie­s in Singapore and the Philippine­s have similar approaches in dealing with Grab’s acquisitio­n of its closest market rival Uber.

For one, both of them issued interim measures which included an order to let the companies operate independen­tly for some time so the government­s can review the deal better.

Last week, the Competitio­n and Consumer Commission of Singapore ( CCCS) released a proposed infringeme­nt decision, which essentiall­y said the deal is anticompet­itive.

Interestin­gly, the Philippine Competitio­n Commission ( PCC) raised similar concerns. Both said prices had increased after the deal, and new players faced a lot of barriers to entry.

“Without any interventi­on from CCCS, it [the deal] could continue to hamper the ability of potential competitor­s to access drivers and vehicles,” CCCS said.

Buthowsimi­lar are the Philippine and Singaporea­n ride hailing platforms really? Well, according to PCC Commission­er Stella Al

abastro Quimbo, the local market is still “quite unique” despite some similariti­es with Singapore.

“While the decisions of neighborin­g competitio­n authoritie­s like Singapore serve as an important reference, the commission’s assessment of potential remedies will be conducted primarily in the context of local laws and markets,” she told BizBuzz.

PCC has suspended its review of the deal after Grab submitted voluntary commitment­s. PCC has until the end of this month to decide whether they are sufficient in addressing competitio­n concerns.

In the case of Singapore, CCCS proposed its own remedies to address the issue, which both Uber and Grab would have to comment on soon. It has also invited public feedback on the proposal.

CCCS, however, may have to “unwind” the deal if public consultati­on yields further remedies that will be enough to address competitio­n concerns.

Unwind. That’s a loaded word. Will PCC do the same? Abangan. —ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL

Real estate tech

Two expat executives of property consulting firm KMC Savills have left the firm to put up a new commercial real estate platform that aims to digitize commercial real estate in Asia Pacific.

The new entity, Talox, is an independen­t cloud-based real estate software applicatio­n that seeks to digitize and optimize commercial leasing and asset management workflows and data analytics, thereby helping landlords and agents in the process.

Yves Luethi, former executive director at KMC Savills, is now chief marketing officer at Talox while Antton Nordberg, former head of research at KMC Savills, is now CEO at Talox. Tyler Staton, formerly a solutions manager at Oracle partner Emerald Associates, is chief commercial officer.

In the Philippine­s, Nordberg said a few landlords/developers were using enterprise solutions. “But enterprise solutions are internal systems, rather than a market-driven platform. And that’s where Talox comes in: We provide an ecosystem for the key stakeholde­rs in the commercial real estate industry, landlords and brokers alike.” —DORIS DUMLAOABAD­ILLA INQ

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