• STI buys out Benitez firm Attenborough

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    Listed educational institution STI Education Systems Holdings Inc. now fully owns Attenborough Holdings Corp. (AHC), a holding firm owned by the Benitez family, as the two parties’ tug of war over unpaid debts incurred by the Benitez-owned Philippines Women’s University (PWU) continues.

    In a disclosure to the stock exchange, STI said it acquired 20 million shares and the subscription rights to 64 million common shares of AHC, equivalent to a 60 percent stake in the latter.

    STI now owns 100 percent of the total issued and outstanding capital stock of AHC from 40 percent previously.

    AHC owns 20 percent of Unlad Resources Corp., a real estate company controlled by the Benitez family which has some assets that were used to support the educational thrust of PWU.

    AHC was a signatory to the omnibus agreement signed in June 2012 under which it and STI granted loans amounting to P198 million and P221 million to Unlad for the upgrade of PWU facilities.

    The loans granted were secured by a mortgage of Unlad’s properties in Quezon City and Davao.

    AHC shelled out P65 million to extend aid to Unlad. As the firm was unable to pay the debt, Unlad’s obligation to AHC has grown to P70.4 million as of December 15 due to accrued interest and value added taxes, STI said.

    Asked why it hiked its interest in AHC, STI president Monico Jacob said: “Attenborough is also a mortgagee. It lent money to Unlad but was not paid. STI Holdings is already a 40-percent owner of Attenborough. We believe the assets to be foreclosed should be consolidated in STI Holdings to achieve better values.”

    STI recently made a move to seek extrajudicial help from a Manila court to foreclose the Manila campus of the PWU due to the Benitez family’s inability to pay its debts to STI and AHC.

    The STI Group said a move to foreclose the Quezon City and Davao properties of PWU and Unlad will follow.

    The PWU tug-of-war stems from the Benitezes’ failure to pay the loans of PWU and its sister firm Unlad to Banco de Oro in 2011, amounting to P230 million.

    The STI Group settled PWU’s loans, saving the university from foreclosure and funding the operations of the Benitez-owned PWU and Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) since 2011, which totaled to P448 million.

    Due to appreciation, interest and cost of money over time, the debt has expanded to P923 million from the original P448 million loaned by STI.

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