STI nixes P550-M Benitez debt settlement offer

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STI Holdings Inc. has rejected the Benitez Group’s bid to negotiate and pay its debts to the educational firm with a P550-million proposal, saying the terms of the proposal are “not acceptable.”

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Monico Jacob, STI Holdings Inc. president, told The Manila Times that the Benitez family’s bid to settle the P500 million principal loan to STI is “not acceptable” as the offer is too late given that the properties in question were “already foreclosed.”

“First, the offer is just for the principal. We have put in the money three years ago.

Second, we continue to incur collection costs plus foreclosure costs. Third, we are not agreeable to term payment,” Jacob said in a text message.

The properties in question include the Benitez-owned Philippine Women’s University (PWU) Manila campus and properties of PWU’s sister firm Unlad Resources Development Corp. in Quezon City and Davao, which are now the subject of foreclosure proceedings after STI sought extra-judicial help to foreclose on the said properties.

In the same day, the Benitez Group—through Unlad—announced that it has sent the STI president a letter offering to negotiate the terms to pay its obligation of P550 million.

Unlad proposed in its letter that the settlement of the P550 million be divided into two payments, a “down payment of P150 million to be paid within three weeks from reaching an agreement,” and “the remaining balance of P400 million will be paid within a period of six months.”

“We believe that the above schedule/terms of payment is a workable, rational, and reasonable solution that shall safeguard the school and at the same time provide STI Holdings a rate of return for its loans to PWU and Unlad,” Unlad president Patrick Caoile said in the letter.

But STI did not accept the offer, pointing out the cost of its money overtime as well as incurred costs on collection and the foreclosure proceedings. The group earlier said it wanted out of the partnership with PWU.

The legal tussle between the Benitezes and STI stems from the former’s failure to pay P230 million in loans incurred by PWU and its sister firm Unlad to Banco de Oro in 2011. The STI Group settled PWU’s loans, saving the university from foreclosure at the time, and funded the operations of the Benitez-owned PWU and Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) in the amount of P448 million since 2011.

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

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