BUSINESSMAN Roberto V. Ongpin is selling his entire 53.76-percent controlling stake in embattled PhilWeb Corp. to Gregorio Ma. Araneta 3rd for P2 billion as a part of his plan to save the company from closure.
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Wednesday, PhilWeb said Ongpin through his financial advisor KPMG (R.G. Manabat & Co.) concluded the sale of Ongpin’s 771.651 million PhilWeb shares to Gregorio Araneta Inc. at P2.60 per share.
Under the share purchase agreement, the transaction will be done in two tranches, the first of which will cover 653.151 million shares through a special block sale subject to the approval of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).
The second tranche will cover 118.5 million shares to be listed on the PSE.
“This second tranche is scheduled as soon as the registration of these shares at the Philippine Stock Exchange is completed and will be transacted at the same price as the special block sale for the first tranche,” PhilWeb said.
The deal signals Ongpin’s divestment from PhilWeb after he resigned as chairman in early August after President Rodrigo Duterte tagged the businessman as an oligarch that needed to be destroyed.
His resignation and a number of attempts to distance himself from PhilWeb supposedly reflected his resolve to save the company from closure after the company failed to renew a licensing agreement with Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (Pagcor), until the last minutes of August 10 when the license expired.
“Ongpin will have no further involvement with PhilWeb. Mr. Gregorio Ma. Araneta 3rd has been elected as chairman, and Mr. Dennis O. Valdes will remain as president,” PhilWeb said.
“With the divestment of Ongpin, the new management of PhilWeb will now reapply for the continuation of its license with Pagcor for its nationwide network of eGames cafes,” the firm added.
Since President Duterte’s pronouncements that oligarchs like Ongpin must be destroyed and any form of online gaming must be shut down, Pagcor has refused to renew PhilWeb’s license as technology service provider to Pagcor’s 286 e-Games outlets.
Ongpin resigned as PhilWeb chairman, and tried to auction off his PhilWeb shareholdings, but ended up proposing a drug rehabilitation program from the proceeds of his shares in support of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
But Pagcor declined, compelling PhilWeb to propose a mobile lottery venture which the gaming regulator also gave the thumbs down.
Ongpin said in one of his letters to Pagcor that the P1 billion from the proceeds of the share sale would be turned over to the government to complement its drug rehabilitation program.
Through the e-Games outlets, PhilWeb employs 700 personnel and 5,000 others who are e-Games operators. In its 14 years of operations, PhilWeb has remitted over P14 billion to Pagcor.
In 2015, PhilWeb remitted more than P2.1 billion to the gaming regulator and paid over P280 million in corporate income tax, value-added and other taxes.