The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will investigate Indonesian magnate Anthoni Salim to find out whether he violated Philippine laws in his acquisition of huge chunks of shareholdings in various firms, including the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).
While acknowledging that at first glance Salim’s ownership of these companies “is not invalid,” the commission said it will look deeper into the matter to determine if the Indonesian tycoon’s control of significant companies in the country is legal.
Gerard Lukban, SEC spokesman, told The Manila Times that Salim’s ownership of 56 percent of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) through his Hong Kong-listed firm First Metro Pacific, is not invalid because it is not covered by any foreign ownership restriction.
The “ownership of Salim in MPIC in itself will not be invalid since the nature of MPIC as a holding company is not covered by any foreign ownership restriction under the Constitution or any law,” Lukban explained.
When asked if Salim’s ownership would mean control of Philippine utility firms, the SEC spokesman said the matter “would be subject to the proper proceedings in the commission.”
“Foreign ownership in companies engaged in the operation and management of public utilities is limited to 40 percent pursuant to Article XII, Section 11 of the Constitution and Section 16 of CA 146. The issue of whether the subject utility firms might be under the control of foreigners, the same would be subject to the proper proceedings in the Commission,” Lukban said.
“SEC will look into the matter to ascertain if there are violations of the ownership restrictions set by the Constitution, the Foreign Investments Act, or other laws which may be applicable,” he added.
Last week, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also told The Times that Malacañang would also investigate Salim’s ownership, control and operation of Philippine utility firms.
Lukban was reacting to a series of articles written by Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, which detailed how Salim took control of his umbrella conglomerate, MPIC, the parent firm of Meralco.
Tiglao said Salim has a stake in Maynilad, several hospitals, toll roads firms and media companies.
The former ambassador detailed how the Indonesian magnate, through corporate layering, gained control of Philippine companies.
“A Salim holding firm called ‘Metro Pacific Holdings’ has 56 percent ownership of Metro Pacific. [Salim’s control of the holding firm for some reason is through three other firms with interlocking ownership: the Amsterdam-based Intalink, B.V, Enterprise Holdings Corp., and First Pacific International.]
“As in the First Pacific layer, that Salim’s firms’ 56 percent holdings in Metro Pacific representing complete control of the firm is beyond any doubt, for the remaining shares are distributed among nearly 40 fund managers, most of which hold less than 1 percent stocks,” Tiglao said.