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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