San Miguel's Ang keen on Solar TV, owner of RPN-9

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Businessman Ramon Ang is keen on acquiring a personal stake in a major shareholder of Radio Philippines Network (RPN) 9, a media firm that is partly owned by the government. 

In a chance interview with reporters on October 4, Ang said he is currently in talks with Solar Entertainment, which has a 34% stake in RPN-9.

"We are in talks to buy Solar," said Ang, the president and chief operating officer of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp.

When asked how his entry into Solar will be pursued, he replied, "Initially, in my own capacity...Hopefully, I [will have majority stake in Solar.]"

San Miguel has previously told the local stock exchange it is interested in bidding for the government's stakes in RPN-9 and IBC-13, while Ang had said his group is "seriously considering" a stake in a broadcast media.

Broadcast network RPN-9 has a board composition as of October 2011 that reflected the equity structure as follows:


Debts

RPN-9 had P3 billion in obligations, of which P2 billion was owed to its employees.

To settle these obligations, the company borrowed from several groups, including Solar Entertainment.

Solar was allowed to convert this debt into equity, giving it a substantial 34% stake in RPN-9.

Another group, FEMII, which is affiliated with the late Ambassador Roberto Benedicto and the San Miguel group, owns another major block of 32%. FEMII was awarded the stake after the Supreme Court ruled with finality in 2010 that it was the rightful owner of the stake.

In a previous statement, RPN management said it "struggled to raise funds needed to continue its operations and pay its employees regularly but to no avail." "This unsustainable situation has resulted in years of unpaid debts and continuing financial losses," it added.

The network said it is cutting about 200 jobs as a way to cut costs.

RPN-9 is no longer producing shows and its airtime had already been assigned to blocktimers, including Solar.

Industry changes

Ang's expression of interest in Solar comes amid convergence strategies among media and telecommunication firms.

Ayala-led Globe Telecommunications Inc. and Lopez-led media giant ABS-CBN Corp. are in talks for potentially additional business synergies on top of their upcoming joint-use of mobile and broadband frequencies

Globe's rival and Pangilinan-led Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), which is an affiliate of third biggest media group TV5, pursued an acquisition deal with the second biggest media player, GMA Network Inc., the operator of GMA-7.

San Miguel's Ang, who had previously claimed having a personal relationship with the owners of GMA-7, did not comment when asked if he will pursue a deal with GMA-7.

San Miguel already has a telecommunications unit through its stake in Liberty Telecommunications, the operator of Wi-Tribe, which offers broadband services. – Rappler.com