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MPIC leaves Bangkok’s AIF Toll Roads

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

METRO Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) on Wednesday said its tollways unit Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) sold 100% of its stake in Thailand’s AIF Toll Roads Holdings Co., Ltd. for $149.25 million.

FPM Tollway (Thailand) Ltd., a 100% indirect subsidiary of MPTC, entered into share purchase deals with “several parties” on Feb. 16 for the sale of 100% of its shares in AIF Toll Roads Holdings (Thailand) Co., Ltd., MPIC said in a disclosure to the stock exchange.

AIF Toll Roads owns about 29.45% of the outstanding shares of Don Muang Tollway Public Co. Ltd., the operator of a major toll road facility in Bangkok, it added.

The move was to “take advantage of the increased interest from third parties to acquire MPTC’s entire shareholdings” in Don Muang Tollway, which holds the concession for a 21.9-kilometer elevated toll road facility in Thailand’s capital, the Philippine infrastructure holding firm said.

“The transaction will allow MPTC to realize a gain on its investment in DMT and benefit from the increased liquidity,” the company noted, adding that the proceeds will be used to fund MPTC’s projects.

Shares were sold to nine Thai citizens, including Sombath Phanichewa, an existing shareholder of Don Muang Tollway and chairman of its board of directors, and one investment company.

The transaction should strengthen the balance sheet of MPTC, according to MPIC.

In a phone interview, Astro C. del Castillo, managing director at First Grade Finance, Inc., said: “Number one, maybe it’s really an opportunity for them to make use of the money to fund additional projects here in the Philippines or outside.”

“Second, given the political condition of Thailand, they opted to take advantage of, perhaps, the attractive price offered by third parties,” he added.

He noted this liquidity will allow MPTC to be more flexible in other opportunities, “which they deem are better compared to the Thai opportunity.”

Nationalist pride, given the political climate, likely played a major role in the third parties’ interest in MPTC’s shares, he also said.

MPIC is one of three key Philippine units of First Pacific, the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

MPIC shares closed 0.96% higher at P4.21 apiece on Wednesday.

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