THE brewing court battle between the Benitezes and the Tancos over Philippine Women’s University is worth watching because of its impact on the school’s students. There is no solution in sight yet for the intra-corporate war until after a regular court has ruled as to who between the two camps of stockholders have the right to run and manage PWU.
Hopefully, the war would end on a positive note that would bring peace to the school. More important, it should not jeopardize the future of PWU students, particularly those graduating this year. The school’s stockholders should know by now that parents of these students have as much stake in PWU as the major contributors to its revenues.
Now how about the public investors in STI Education Systems Holdings Inc.? STI is the listed flagship of businessman Eusebio H. Tanco, who claimed that STI has P900 million exposure in PWU. STI’s stockholders outside the Tanco group should be worried since financial losses cut deep into the retained earnings of a listed company and may even bring the company into deficit.
So far, STI’s public stockholders have not spoken out either for or against any of the two contending factions. It would be safe to assume that they monitor the accusations and counter-accusations by reading the news. Being outsiders, these small stockholders have no way of knowing what the members of the board of STI Holdings have in store for them to prevent the fight over PWU from spreading into their company.
As investor in PWU, Mr. Tanco has the obligation to protect the interest of STI Holdings in the school because more than P900 million is too big for the public stockholders to ignore.
If the public remains silent, their silence does not mean they do not care about the money.
They do care because the P925-million loan STI Holdings had assumed represents 34.412 percent of STI Holdings’ P2.688 billion retained earnings.
To explain further, P925 million, if added to STI Holdings’ surplus of P2.688 billion, means P3.613 billion in retained earnings that the board could declare as dividend either in cash or in stock if the entire amount would be available.
By the way, lawyer Monico V. Jacob, president and chief executive officer of STI Holdings must be happy at the sudden turn of events. Instead of Tancos group, the Benitzes were the ones who went to court.
Want to guess why Mr. Jacob is silent these days despite the court case filed by the Benitez camp? He must be plotting the legal strategy to win the war. After all, he has long been exposed to intra-corporate battles and how these are won and lost having been a member of the five-man regulatory body of the Securities and Exchange Commission when the SEC was still litigating corporate intramurals.
But before the crisis worsens, how about an SEC audit of PWU, Mr. Jacob? You know very well that an examination of the financials of the school would bring out the truth about the tuitions and miscellaneous fees paid by parents of PWU students.
It is time to call in SEC’s audit team. Paging SEC Chairperson Teresita Herbosa. Are you ready to intervene in the Tanco-Benitez war over PWU?