Tan ‘Seriously considering’ selling remaining PAL stake

Billionaire Lucio Tan is "seriously" considering offloading his majority shareholdings in country's flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) after he was approached by interested buyers, the airline's parent firm announced.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, PAL Holdings Inc. said yesterday Tan, one of the richest men in the country based on the Forbes list, is now looking into the proposal of interested investors.

PAL Holdings, however, did not give details on the identity of the said interested investors.

"We received an advise today that the group of Dr. Lucio Tan was approached by investorsinterested to acquire its 51 percent stake in PAL Holdings and Philippine Airlines. The Lucio Tan's group is seriously looking into the proposal," the airline's parent company said.

"San Miguel should have the right of first refusal, and it doesn't seem to be worried about matching an offer from an outside buyer," Jomar Lacson, an analyst at Campos Lanuza & Co. said. "The logical investors would be a group from San Miguel itself," with possible candidates being the brewer's President Ramon Ang, Chairman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. or Roberto Ongpin, a director, he said.

On Monday, Tan's one-year business partner San Miguel Corporation denied reports that the company will be acquiring LT Group's remaining 51 percent stake in PAL and PAL Holdings for $500 million.

Instead, the diversified conglomerate San Miguel revealed that Tan "is in talks with a group of investors who have expressed an interest to purchase such majority interestof the LT Group in PAL and PAL Holdings."

Ramon S. Ang, San Miguel president and a certified pilot, however, did not response to a query on Monday if he is among the interested investors in his personal capacity.

In April Last year, San Miguel's wholly-owned subsidiary San Miguel Equity Investments Incorporated acquired a 49 percent equity interest in Trustmark Holdings Corporation, which originally owned 97.71 percent stake in airline's parent firm, for $500 million.

PAL Holdings that time owned 84.67 percent of PAL through PR Holdings Incorporated.
With the acquisition, San Miguel bought a 49 percent interest in PAL while tobacco and airline magnate Tan retained a controlling 51 percent shareholdings.

Tan remains chairman and chief executive officer of PAL, while the management operations were granted to the San Miguel, headed by Ang.

Since then, Ang promised that he could return the airline to profitability by 2014 with his aggressive re-fleeting program, including the acquisition of 100 new aircraft.

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