Businessman Roberto Ongpin is set to auction his stake in electronic gaming technology provider PhilWeb Corp. as a final attempt to save the company, which is struggling to fight closure following the expiration of its license from state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
In an emergency meeting with PhilWeb shareholders, Ongpin, who quit as chairman last week, announced he would sell his 53.76-percent controlling stake in PhilWeb to the “highest bidder.”
Ongpin wants to break links to the company, after being singled out by President Rodrigo Duterte as an “oligarch” who had benefited from government connections.
Duterte also wants electronic gaming shut down. PhilWeb operates 287 “Pagcor e-Games” cafes nationwide, with 5,000 employees.
“I have clear control of this company. So now, I’m hereby announcing an open auction for all these shares as of today. The auction will be for a period of one week from today (August 10), and will end at 12 noon, on Wednesday next week, August 17,” Ongpin said.
“I am doing this auction so that I can be totally out of the picture and the innocent bystanders, such as the shareholders, the employees of PhilWeb Corp., the e-Games operators, their collective employees which numbers some 5,000 people, may be able to save their jobs,” Ongpin added.
PhilWeb President Dennis Valdes said the auction would be done simultaneously with the company’s bid to secure a new license from Pagcor.
“What Pagcor said is that we’re winding down operations of PhilWeb. We will be reapplying for new contract with Pagcor definitely,” Valdes said.
Ongpin hopes PhilWeb will have another shot at getting a new permit, noting that the President is only targeting him as an “oligarch,” and not PhilWeb directly.
“My resignation is not sufficient. I should be totally out of the picture … I’m no longer a chairman of PhilWeb. What I’m doing is I’m trying to facilitate the renewal of the contract by stepping out of the way. It’s just that he (President Rodrigo Duterte) doesn’t like me,” Ongpin told shareholders and the media.
The company was to stop operations by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday with the expiration of its Pagcor contract.
At the stock exchange, trading in PhilWeb shares were halted from August 10 to 17.
Valdes estimated losses of P15 million to P16 million a day in revenues from foregone operations of e-Games outlets.
Pagcor took up 40.2 percent of revenues from e-Games operations, while 28 percent went to operators, 2 percent to marketers, and 29 percent to PhilWeb.