San Miguel Says to Stay Listed After Ang Says Brewer May Be Taken Private

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San Miguel Corp. (SMC) pledged to remain a publicly traded company, a day after President Ramon Ang said it was considering going private because disclosure requirements were hampering acquisition plans.

“San Miguel shall remain listed, owing to its iconic status in the country,” the Philippines’ largest listed company said today. The statement, citing Ang, was issued in response to queries, it said. San Miguel said it also “contemplates” to list all its operating subsidiaries, including new businesses.

Ang said in an interview yesterday that if he has his “way,” San Miguel will buy back its shares and become privately held by next year. Buying back the shares may cost about $800 million, he said. San Miguel had a public float of 14 percent as of May 5, it said at the time. That’s worth about 40 billion pesos ($943 million) based on today’s share price.

“A listed company has more advantages than a privately held corporation in terms of financing and attracting investors,” said Astro del Castillo, managing director at Manila-based First Grade Finance Inc.

The food and beverage company that’s expanding into oil refining, power retailing and infrastructure is also in talks to buy an overseas company with an enterprise value of $10 billion, Ang said yesterday. The target has a “potential free cash flow of between $2 billion and $3 billion a year,” he said. The discussions may take “a few more months,” Ang said.

Return on Equity
Compliance with the Philippine Stock Exchange’s requirements on disclosures has sometimes made it difficult for San Miguel to make purchases, Ang said yesterday. The Philippines’ most acquisitive company, which started as a brewer more than a century ago, seeks to triple the 7 percent return on equity it gets from its traditional food and drinks businesses.

San Miguel rose 1 percent to 122 pesos at the close of trading in Manila, paring gains after rising as much as 2.7 percent earlier. The stock has lost 26 percent this year, compared with a 3.7 percent gain for the Philippine Stock Exchange Index.

“If your balance sheet is strong like San Miguel, you don’t need to be publicly listed,” Ang said yesterday at the company’s headquarters in Manila. “If I have my way, I will privatize it next year,” he said.

Listed companies are more prone to “leakage” of information, and disclosures sometimes work to the advantage of competitors, Ang said in the interview.

San Miguel had 127 billion pesos in cash and near-cash items as of June and has a total of 186 billion pesos of bonds and loans due by 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company’s units such as Petron Corp. (PCOR), the country’s biggest refiner, and San Miguel Brewery Inc. (SMB) will probably remain listed, Ang said yesterday.

Ang declined to provide more details on the acquisition target such as which industry it operates in or where it’s based.