From telco to airport? MVP, Gokongwei eye Mactan-Cebu project
The groups had initial talks but these were stalled due to a previous ban on airline owners

MANILA, Philippines – From telecommunications, two of the country’s biggest business groups seek to extend their partnership to aviation. 

The Manuel V. Pangilinan and Gokongwei groups — already allies in giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) — are moving into the airport business.

They plan to resume talks over a possible joint bid for the Mactan-Cebu airport expansion project, according to an ABS-CBN News Online report Monday, February 4.

The parties were in initial talks, but the negotiations were stalled when the government banned airline owners from participating in the auction, the report quoted Metro Pacific Investments Corp. President Joey Lim as saying.

The Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) has been eyeing key infrastructure projects the government is auctioning. It is looking for a partner — an airport operator from Asia or Europe — for its Mactan-Cebu bid.  

In 2011, PLDT and Gokongwei-led Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel) entered into a share swap, creating a behemoth that controls up to 70% of the Philippine telecommunications industry. 

Gokongwei also owns JG Summit Holdings Inc., the operator of budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air, which dominates the local aviation industry. The Gokongweis earlier said JG Summit will be the one that will participate in the airport project auction.  

Revised Cebu airport rules

The announcement that both groups are revisiting a possible partnership for the Mactan-Cebu airport bid comes after the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) revised on February 1 the bidding guidelines.

The DOTC, previously concerned about conflict-of-interest issues, now allows limited participation by airline companies following a concern banning them might affect foreign investments.

The DOTC said the relaxed the rules would open the door for more bidders, helping the government get a better deal.

“The DOTC is revising its bid criteria to encourage broader participation in the bid, in order to provide government with more competitive proposals… Airline companies (and companies linked to airlines) may own up to 33% of the company that will be given the airport terminal concession,” the DOTC said.

Other companies eyeing the airport project include the Ayala and Aboitiz groups, San Miguel Corp., and foreign companies Samsung C&T Corp. and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad.

The P17-billion project involves the expansion of the country’s second busiest airport, which also serves as the gateway to central Philippines. –

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