Home » Ports/Terminals » Lines all for MPIC taking key stake in North Harbor port venture

Fears of monopoly surface with pullout threat.

THE Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) approves of Metro Pacific Investment Corp (MPIC) taking majority control of Manila North Harbour Port, Inc (MNHPI), the joint venture between MPIC and Harbour Centre Port Terminals, Inc (HCPTI).

This, according to the carriers, will sit well with most port users, given the track record of MPIC in its other business ventures. It will also ensure there is no monopoly in the ports business.

MPIC is chaired by Manuel V. Pangilinan, who also chairs First Pacific Co Ltd. The latter holds controlling shares in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co and Manila Electric Company, two of the country’s biggest corporations.

It may be recalled that Pangilinan last week said the company may opt out of the port business if it fails to secure a controlling stake in MNHPI. MNHPI, which holds the 25-year management and operation contract for North Harbor, is 65% owned by HCPTI of the Romero family and 35% owned by MPIC.

“If MPIC leaves the partnership and HCPTI is left with full control of the North Harbor, the Romero group will be operating as a monopoly,” PLSA executive director Josefina Maitim said in a letter to Philippine Ports Authority general manager Atty. Oscar Sevilla last week.

“HCPTI will have full control of the North Harbor, Harbour Centre and Subic, making South Harbor’s small allocation to domestic (operations) hardly able to act as competition.”

Maitim said, “HCPTI has already displayed monopolistic tendencies during these short few months (it has been) in control of (North Harbor) operations… (much) in the same way it is running Harbour Centre,” adding that HCPTI has not brought in the promised equipment to bring services to the levels they were before the takeover.

“PLSA, its customers and the public have suffered financially from this. Allowing a true monopoly will, without a doubt, be inimical to the public’s interest in the long term,” she explained.

Keeping control

HCPTI does not seem willing to part with its majority shareholding in MNHPI. Rather it has plans of putting all its port businesses in a single corporate entity to be called Harbour Centre Holdings, Inc for public listing by yearend.

The activity is expected to raise P3 billion to finance other port projects. HCPTI is eyeing overseas operations, including in Guam, Indonesia, China and Russia.

In Vladivostok, HCPTI has been invited by a privately-owned company to operate a port. In Guam, it joined a pre-bid conference for the management and operation of the US territory’s main port, competing with Asian Terminals, Inc and International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

And along with MPIC, HCPTI is negotiating with Indonesia’s Salim Group to operate one of the group’s private ports.

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