The controlling shareholder of Philippines-based PhilWeb Corp says he will sell his entire 53.76-percent stake in the gaming parlour operator via an open and public bidding process in an effort to salvage the business.
“In a final effort to save the jobs of thousands of innocent people who will be affected, I will sell my entire stake in PhilWeb,” said Roberto Ongpin at an emergency meeting of stockholders held on Wednesday.
PhilWeb began on Wednesday winding down its e-Games outlet operation in the Philippines, after the country’s gaming regulator – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) – decided not to renew the firm’s licence.
“I have decided to conduct an open auction for all these shares as of today [Wednesday],” said Mr Ongpin, according to a statement filed with the Philippine Stock Exchange on Thursday. The auction is expected to end on August 17.
PhilWeb has come under the regulatory spotlight since Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte made a number of anti-oligarch and anti-online gambling remarks.
Mr Duterte had singled out Mr Ongpin, a former trade minister, as one of the country’s “monster” oligarchs. He accused Mr Ongpin of currying favour with previous presidents and using his influence to boost his businesses.
Mr Ongpin and his daughter Anna Bettina Ongpin have since both resigned from PhilWeb.
Mr Ongpin said in his Wednesday remarks that the auction of his Philweb shares would be open to “every financially capable person or entity” that wishes to submit a bid. He added that the winning bidder would have the option to withdraw the bid “if they or their associates are unable to obtain a renewal of the PhilWeb licence … on or before August 31”.
“I had hoped that with my resignation, Pagcor would be able to renew the contract [of PhilWeb], and thus save the [jobs of] thousands of people,” Mr Ongpin said. “Unfortunately, it was not to be, and Pagcor has officially notified PhilWeb that its licence will not be renewed,” he added.
PhilWeb has run Pagcor’s e-Games network for 14 years. It has 286 branches and more than 5,000 employees, the firm said.
During Wednesday’s meeting, PhilWeb’s president, Dennis Valdes, said the company would apply for a new licence agreement with Pagcor “within the next few weeks”.
The value of PhilWeb’s shares has plunged nearly 83 percent since July 1. On Wednesday, the company asked for an immediate suspension of trading in its shares, effective until August 31.
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"If the [Macau casino] concessions are put up for bid, there will also be a lot of giant Chinese companies, some having nothing to do with gaming, which would like to take over these enormously successful casinos”
Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau