New bid in Manila land deal

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 12:00am

First Pacific's Philippine unit, Metro Pacific, is in talks to sell a majority stake in Bonifacio Land to Ayala Land and businessman Jose Campos of United Laboratories.

Sources close to the deal said Ayala Land, a subsidiary of Ayala, and Mr Campos had offered to assume a US$105 million loan secured against the 50.4 per cent stake. The loan is owed to Larouge, another First Pacific subsidiary.

Metro Pacific owns 72 per cent of Bonifacio Land, a private consortium that is converting the former Fort Bonifacio military base in suburban Manila into a high-end financial, commercial and residential district.

First Pacific earlier tried to sell the 50.4 per cent stake to Manila businessman John Gokongwei, as part of a deal that would also have seen him buy the company's stake in Philippine Long Distance Telephone. Mr Gokongwei walked away from the deal last week following stiff resistance from the Philippine companies' managements.

Metro Pacific would continue to hold a minority stake in Bonifacio Land, sources said.

An offer to buy into Bonifacio Land from San Miguel was dismissed as 'ridiculous' by a source close to Metro Pacific, who said the Ayala bid was being treated seriously.

A source said First Pacific 'has immediate funding requirements' and one of them was to settle the US$105 million owed by Metro Pacific to Larouge.

Larouge had in turn borrowed the amount from ING Bank and it was falling due soon.

Ayala Land first expressed interest in Bonifacio Land last year but was unable to agree a price with Metro Pacific.