Philippine gaming parlour operator PhilWeb Corp has appealed to the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to approve the PHP2-billion (US$41.2-million) block sale of founder Roberto Ongpin’s 53.76-percent stake to businessman Gregorio Araneta III ahead of the mandatory tender offering to minority shareholders.
PhilWeb said last week that Mr Ongpin was selling his 771,651,896 shares in PhilWeb – equivalent to a 53.76 percent holding and held via a group of companies – to Gregorio Araneta Inc for PHP2.60 per share. The company had announced in September the appointment of Gregorio Araneta III as chairman of the board, replacing Mr Ongpin.
In a filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Philweb’s president, Dennis Valdes, urged the SEC to allow the special block sale of the company shares to Gregorio Araneta Inc to proceed ahead of the mandatory tender offering.
“Gregorio Araneta Inc is perfectly willing to do the tender offer, but it is in everyone’s interest to have the special block sale proceed now instead of after, because requiring the tender offer to be done first will only delay Mr Roberto Ongpin’s exit from the company by at least another month,” said Mr Valdes.
“The concern is that any further delay in Mr Ongpin’s exit from the company may delay its discussions with Pagcor [Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp] regarding the reissuance of the company licence,” he added.
PhilWeb had said it would “reapply” for its licence to operate a network of e-Games parlours in the country, following the exit of its former controlling shareholder.
PhilWeb has become the focus of attention following the Philippines’ new President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-oligarch and anti-online gambling remarks. Mr Ongpin stepped down as Philweb’s chairman on August 4, as Mr Duterte singled out Mr Ongpin as an example of an “oligarch” he would bring down during his term.
In Tuesday’s filing, PhilWeb’s Mr Valdes said a further delay to the block sale “would further damage the network of e-Games operators and the 5,000 employees of that network, which has been shut down for two months now”.
PhilWeb offered Internet-delivered casino games via a network with a total of 286 retail outlets in that country, according to company information. The firm’s licence to manage its network of e-Games expired on August 10.
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Lionel Leong Vai Tac
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance