GSIS hikes stake in Metro Pacific to 12%


MANILA  -State pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) delivered a surprise on Tuesday as it announced an increase in its stake in Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investment Corp. by nearly four times to about 12 percent days before the conclusion of the company’s P55-billion privatization bid.

Shares of the infrastructure giant fell 1.2 percent to P5.10 apiece as investors weighed the implications to Metro Pacific’s proposed delisting from the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) due to its low stock market valuation.

GSIS’ upsized stake, worth about P17.8 billion at the tender offer price of P5.20 per share, gives the pension fund enough boardroom sway to block the delisting plan.

But several market observers said GSIS was likely strengthening its position to negotiate better buyout terms from the bidding consortium—composed of Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim’s First Pacific Group, the Ty family conglomerate GT Capital Holdings, Japan’s Mitsui Group and Manuel V. Pangilinan, chair and CEO of Metro Pacific.

“Either they raise the price to a level that is acceptable to GSIS or they can no longer delist,” COL Financial Group chief equity strategist April Lynn Tan told the Inquirer on Tuesday.

“GSIS, after all, doesn’t need the liquidity given the nature of their funds. They can and should always think long term if and when they buy shares of stocks,” she added.

GSIS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Several stockbrokers polled by the Inquirer said most of their retail investors decided to sell their shares after the Metro Pacific bidding consortium improved the offer by 12 percent to the “best and final” price of P5.20 per share.

The official closing date of the tender offer is on Sept. 7 but stockbrokers said most of the documents would have been submitted by today.

Concerns were brewing at the start of the official tender offer period last month after sources said GSIS, which held about 3 percent of the company’s shares at the time, abstained from voting in favor of Metro Pacific’s delisting although majority of stockholders still ratified the plan.

Then through a letter to Metro Pacific on Sept. 4, it was revealed that GSIS was aggressively buying the company’s shares from Aug. 23 through Sept. 4, acquiring 2.49 billion shares during this period to arrive at its present stake of 11.98 percent.

GSIS shares are classified as public shareholdings, meaning the bidding consortium would need to purchase these to reach the required 95 percent ownership threshold before proceeding with the voluntary delisting.

GSIS’ stake would be considered nonpublic once it obtains a board seat in the company, based on a series of revisions being proposed by the PSE.

The bidding consortium maintains the option to scrap the tender offer at any time before the settlement date on Sept. 19, Metro Pacific said in an earlier stock exchange filing.

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