Zest-O's Yao group buys Maybank ATR Kim Eng

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The group of juice and airline magnate Alredo Yao is acquiring a controlling stake in Maybank ATR Kim Eng Financial Corporation, a listed financial services firm, for P3.2 billion.

Yao, one of the country's richest, later confirmed the purchase and said he may use Maybank for the backdoor listing of the group's beverage business, Zest-O Corporation and RC Cola. 

The sale involved more than 958 million Maybank shares, accounting for 89.75% stake in the financial services firm. The parties priced the Maybank shares at P3.3298 per, a deep discount from the P30 price they were last traded the day before.

The Yao group is essentially buying a shell company with no operations, as disclosed by Maybank ATR.

The target firm has sold all of the assets to Maybank ATR Kim Eng Capital Partners (MATRKECP), which also will assume Maybank ATR's subsidiaries, namely AsianLife and General Assurance Corporation and ATR Kim Eng Land, Inc. MATRKECP will also assume all the liabilities of Maybank ATR.

All officers and employees of the purchased firms will be expected to resign on or before the closing date, which is on October 25. A new board will be elected by then.

The PSE imposed a trading suspension after the announcement.

Drinks business

The business group led by Yao, a former ambassador, has said in February it has plans to list its softdrinks company RC Cola and juice busines Zest-O Corporation.

Yao owns a majority stake in Asiawide Refreshments Corp. (ARC), which has the exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute RC Cola in Southeast Asia. Opening manufacturing plants in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam are among the expansion plans. It already has 14 plants in the Philippines.

Yao, who said that he is eyeing a public float of 30% to 35% for ARC, attributed RC Cola's competitiveness to its use of returnable bottles, which makes the beverage cheaper.

When listing plans were announced, the group has just successfully listed  Philippine Business Bank (PBB), generating P3.2 billion in proceeds, and was mulling ways to raise funds for airline Zest Air.

Zest Air later entered into a share-swap deal with AirAsia Philippines. The Yao group received $16 million from that deal. - Rappler.com