When giants collide

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Friday, August 15, 2014


NO, THEY’RE not the When Giants Collide, the five-piece metal band from West Yorkshire, UK. WGC draws influences from many genres but maintain a consistent, aggressive, heavy metal sound.

I equate the WGC with the sounds coming from Ayala Land Inc. and SM Prime Holdings Inc. This time, ALI is petitioning the Bacolod Regional Trial Court Branch 48 to dismiss for lack of merit a suit filed by SMPHI against it and to order SMPHI to pay P40.5 million in damages and litigation fees.

Earlier, SMPHI filed Civil Case No. 14-14323 against Negros Occidental provincial government officials, led by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., and ALI before RTC Branch 48, seeking the nullification of a deed of conditional sale and contract of lease the defendants entered into involving the Capitol’s 7.7-hectare prime property in Bacolod City.

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On its part, the Negros Occidental officials had also asked the court to dismiss the SMPHI case for “willful and deliberate forum shopping, and utter lack of merit,” and to order the firm to pay it P50 million in damages.

ALI, in its answer with compulsory counterclaim, asked the court to dismiss the suit and to order SMPHI to pay it P20 million in exemplary damages, P20 million in moral damages and P500,000 in attorneys fees.

Gone are the days when mall rivals get clobbered and defeated in the market place where consumers play the ultimate judges. They render their judgments from their pockets.

The Bacolod corporate battles is just one on the fronts where giants ALI and SMPHI slug it out: Ayala Land, BPI, Globe Telecom, Manila Water, IMI, Ayala Automotive versus SM Malls, SM Property, BDO, China Bank.

It should be flattering for Negrenses that these two biggies have opened a battlefront in Bacolod. But then perhaps the local market is not big enough to make everyone happy.

Now every mall worth its name play high roller games. It’s not enough to bank on the roll of the dice in marketing where market forces reign supreme. They have to use the coercive powers of the State to block the business plans of their rivals.

Every weapon in their high-end conflict is to be used, including the courts of law. It seems the strategy is exploiting a fundamental flaw of our courts – they take years to render a ruling.

ALI said that as a developer, it does not cut corners, nor does it stake its name on any development that will have an adverse impact on its reputation.

Oh sure. But ALI also plays the same game as its rival. Elsewhere, the shoe is on the other foot. ALI challenged the Pasay City government the approval of an unsolicited SMPHI proposal to reclaim 300 hectares from Manila Bay, to be used jointly by the conglomerate and the LGU.

The funny thing is that the head honchos are supposedly warm to one other when they step off the battlefield. Ms. SM vice chair Tessie Sy-Coson continues to interact quite warmly with the Zobel brothers (especially the Ayala group’s chair Jaime Augusto, whom she encounters more often).

In fact, Jaime Zobel de Ayala and Henry Sy Sr. started off (and remain, by most accounts) good friends, long before the business of empire building got in the way. (Henry Sy still maintains an office in the old Makati Stock Exchange building adjacent to the Tower One high-rise along Ayala Ave. – a location he considers to have good feng shui.)

The ALI-SMPHI corporate war is like listening to WGC. As a blog puts it, “Punishing is what we like to call it.” WGC – and SMPHI and ALI hit you hard…as if…well, as if these groups are colliding in an epic battle.*

***

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 15, 2014.

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