First Pacific Co yesterday revealed that the Asian currency crisis took a US$100 million bite from its earnings for last year, sending profit before exceptional items tumbling 17.6 per cent to $166.2 million. The company also said it was considering privatising three key regional subsidiaries as preparation for the region's new economic environment. Managing director Manuel Pangilinan said: '[Last year] was a difficult and dramatic year for the region, and First Pacific as a result.' First Pacific, which is backed by Indonesia's Salim group, bore the brunt of the currency crisis through its highly leveraged businesses in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. The company was brutally exposed as the Philippine peso tumbled 34 per cent over the year, the Thai baht 47 per cent and the Indonesian rupiah 53 per cent. The currency weakness not only hurt First Pacific's profits, it also shaved $457.9 million from the value of its various regional investments. The falls prompted the company to embark on an asset disposal programme to shore up its finances, selling its stake in Dutch trading company Hagemeyer and mobile-phone business Pacific Link. Helping to cushion the slide at the operating level, First Pacific booked a net gain from exceptional items of $45 million thanks to the $248.8 million it reaped from its various disposals. The gain was eroded by one-off losses ranging from reorganisation costs to provisions against telecommunications investments. The company also booked a $32.4 million exceptional loss from its attempt to take over Philippine brewer San Miguel Corp. The net gain from exceptional items meant First Pacific's attributable profit rose 3.8 per cent to $212 million. Analysts said the results were better than expected but stressed that the issue was how the company would spend the $2 billion proceeds of the Pacific Link and Hagemeyer sales. Nikko Research Center chief analyst Steven Thompson said: 'The results were okay - but they are irrelevant. This is a new company now.' Mr Pangilinan said First Pacific planned to spend $570 million on equity injections into its struggling subsidiaries to help lower foreign currency debt. He said a series of rights issues would see $300 million injected into Metro Pacific, $200 million into Berli Jucker in Thailand and $20 million into Darya-Varia Laboratoria in Indonesia. The management also told analysts First Pacific might privatise or delist these three companies if the rights issues were not well received. Group vice-president Robert Sherbin said: 'It is an issue we wrestle with. It would be difficult in practical terms, but we have talked a lot about this.' Mr Pangilinan said the roughly $1 billion left after rights issues and paying down head office debt would be earmarked for new investments around the region. He said the search for investments was concentrating in Hong Kong and the mainland, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, but stressed no acquisitions were imminent. He said First Pacific was seeking investments in businesses similar to those it already ran, notably banking, property, telecommunications, and marketing and distribution. Seeking to allay fears the San Miguel losses might be repeated, Mr Pangilinan said the company would not rush into any decisions. 'In making our investment decisions, we will be mindful of the uncertainties prevailing in the region and properly discount for the risks involved.' First Pacific built up a 2 per cent stake in San Miguel starting late last year, but negotiations that might have seen it take a controlling stake later broke down. Mr Pangilinan said the rebound in Asian currencies this year meant it was possible the company might recover some of the provisions.