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LT Group raises stake in Victorias Milling

MANILA, Philippines – LT Group Inc. (LTG) of tycoon Lucio Tan doubled its stake in Victorias Milling Company Inc. (VMC) amid reports that the group of Manuel V. Pangilinan was buying into the country's largest sugar miller.

In a regulatory filing on Tuesday, April 8, LTG said it raised its interest in VMC to 14.8% from 7.4%. It did not disclose the value of the transaction.

LTG is engaged in the manufacture of tobacco products and distilled spirits, as well as property development. Its subsidiaries include Tanduay Distillers Inc., Asia Brewery Inc., Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. and Eton Properties Philippines Inc.

VMC manufactures integrated raw and refined sugar. It has facilities in Victorias City, Negros Occidental. Its subsidiaries are engaged in fish canning, real estate, sugar sacks manufacturing, and golf course and restaurant operations. VMC is also the main sugar supplier of Tanduay.

The company has been paring down its debt under a 15-year rehabilitation program to strengthen its balance sheet. It is upgrading its production facilities in preparation for heightened competition when sugar tariffs across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are reduced to between 5% and zero by 2015.

The increase in LTG's VMC stake is seen as a defensive move amid reports that Pangilinan-led First Pacific group is interested in buying into VMC. The reports said First Pacific wants to acquire Metrobank's 7% VMC stake.

If this pushes through, this will be First Pacific's second foray into the sugar business after acquiring 34% of sugar miller Roxas Holdings Inc. last year. – Rappler.com