Manny Pangilinan to eventually divest from Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – Manuel "Manny" Pangilinan said he has talked with the Rufino-Prieto family and has agreed to divest and sell all his shares in the group of Philippine Daily Inquirer.

"As of today, technically no [we haven't sold it yet]; but we have an agreement to sell," Pangilinan told reporters on the sidelines of a briefing in Makati City on Friday, August 4.

Pangilinan, through Excel Pacific Holdings Corporation, owns a 13.08% stake in Philippine Daily Inquirer Incorporated and 25% stake in Inquirer Holdings Incorporated.

The Rufino-Prieto family, meanwhile, owns a 68% stake in Pentap Equities Holdings Corporation, which in turn owns 68.8% of Inquirer Holdings.

This comes after Ramon Ang, the chief of the country's most diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, accepted the offer of the Rufino-Prieto family to buy all the family's shares in Inquirer group.

Ang had said that the valuation of the deal between him and the Rufino-Prieto family has yet to be determined, because they are still conducting their due diligence.

For Pangilinan, the intention of his divestment in Inquirer group is likely to give 100% ownership to Ang.

"We told them (Prietos) we are okay to divesting. We said we have no problem with that. So that the takeover will be seamless and we will not get in the way. I guess it will eventually wind up to Ang," Pangilinan added.

Pangilinan's group has interests in broadsheets BusinessWorld Publishing Corporation and PhilStar Daily Incorporated, as well as in broadcast units TV5 Corporation and Bloomberg TV Philippines. (READ: Ramon Ang and his media interests)

The share sale of Inquirer's majority stakeholders comes amid Duterte's attacks to the Rufino-Prieto family.

Marixi Prieto, chairperson of the Inquirer Group of Companies, had said the family's decision to divest after 25 years is a strategic business decision that they believe will maximize growth opportunities for the media outfit.

In the past few months, the family has been in the spotlight following repeated attacks by President Rodrigo Duterte who called out Inquirer for what he deemed to be unfair coverage of him.

Duterte followed these attacks by attempting to link the Prieto family to Briccio Santos, former official of the Film Development Council of the Philippines who received a large income in 2013 as the council's chair under the previous administration.

Duterte stepped up his attacks earlier this month when he threatened an exposé against Inquirer and its owners, hinting it owed P8 billion in unpaid taxes stemming from the family’s Mile Long Property in Makati City. 

Should the share sale breach P1 billion, it will need the approval of the Philippine Competition Commission before the transaction gets implemented. –