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Benpres prepares to sell its stake in Rockwell Land

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña
Monday, July 28, 2008 [ ]

Benpres Holdings Corp., the investment arm of the Lopez family, is in talks with two or three private equity fund management companies for the sale of its stake in upscale property firm Rockwell Land Corp.

Benpres president and chief operating officer Angel S. Ong said the sale is in line with the group’s overall strategy to trim debt which stood at around $367 million as of end-December last year from a high of $560 million in 2002.

Aside from Rockwell, Benpres is planning to sell its 33-percent interest in Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) either through a secondary offering or private placement of shares. Macquarie Securities has been appointed as financial advisor for the divestment of its stake in MNTC which is expected to raise over $100 million in fresh equity.

The group’s objective is to reduce its debt by half over a period of two years.

Majority of the original debt was used to fund investments in Bayan Telecommunications Inc. and the failed operations of its then water unit Maynilad Water Services Inc.

Ong said Benpres remains optimistic it could win approval of its creditors for its revised debt restructuring plan which had been on the table since August 2007. The updated plan calls for the restructuring of debt payments over a period of 12 years.

Benpres earlier reported that its net profit for the first quarter of this year fell 91.8 percent to only P60 million, weighed down by the weak performances of its power and tollways holding firm First Philippine Holdings Corp. and ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.


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