July 27, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Ang acquiring Prieto interest in Inquirer

BILLIONAIRE Ramon S. Ang is set to take over the Inquirer Group of Companies after the Prieto family decided to exit the business.


In a statement, Inquirer Group of Companies Chairman Marixi R. Prieto said she has “resumed discussions” with San Miguel Corp. President Ramon S. Ang for the sale of the family’s interest and “majority” shareholdings in the Inquirer Group, which owns a broadsheet, tabloid newspapers and a radio station.

Ms. Prieto described Mr. Ang as a “long-standing friend and business partner,” noting that talks started in 2014 and restarted early this year.

San Miguel’s chief will undertake a due diligence review on the publication soon, the statement read.

“The Prieto family’s decision to divest after 25 years is a strategic business decision that it believes will maximize group opportunities for the Inquirer Group,” the newspaper said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Mr. Ang, who confirmed that he was making the investment in his personal capacity, said he has “accepted the offer of the Prieto family to invest in the Inquirer Group.”

“I am looking forward to being part of this venerable institution,” the statement quoted Mr. Ang as saying.

The acquisition follows Mr. Ang’s failed attempt to secure a minority stake in broadcaster GMA Network, Inc. in 2014.

His media ambitions did not end there even after he gave up San Miguel’s telecommunications business, which was sold last year to PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc.

Mary Jade Roxas-Divinagracia, PwC Philippines managing partner for deals and corporate finance, said Mr. Ang’s investment was “quite an interesting move” since the print media industry has been on a decline globally.

“I can only surmise that it is more strategic rather than financial. As they say, ‘he who controls the media/headlines controls the world.’ However, RSA may be seeing synergies between his other business also and can use Inquirer as his media platform,” Ms. Roxas-Divinagracia said in a mobile phone message, using Mr. Ang’s initials.

Under Mr. Ang, San Miguel has diversified from traditional food, beverage and packaging businesses into other high-growth areas such as oil and gas, mining and infrastructure.

“If it is under San Miguel, I don’t have a clear idea as to how it fits in the diversification strategy. It’s off tangent,” Justino B. Calaycay, Jr., senior research analyst at Philstocks.ph., said in a telephone interview.

“In the digital age, these (newspapers) are sources of content. It’s not probably the acquisition per se, but what value he can generate later on,” Mr. Calaycay said.

Last year, the Philippine Daily Inquirer redesigned its newspaper and embarked on a multimedia thrust to make itself more relevant in the digital era.

Mr. Ang’s investment in the Inquirer Group will give him a presence in print media, putting him in competition with PLDT Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, which controls BusinessWorld and Philippine Star through Hastings Holdings, Inc. PLDT also has a minority stake in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“(Mr. Ang has) been eyeing media or communications for the longest time so now he’s getting his chance. Perhaps the bigger question is whether the Prietos sold this at a premium or discount -- that would send a signal to the market,” Luis A. Limlingan, business development head at Regina Capital Development Corp., said in a separate interview.

The deal happened months after President Rodrigo R. Duterte singled out the paper for its critical coverage of his administration’s bloody war on drugs.

Mr. Duterte has on numerous occasions also publicly accused the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s owners of tax evasion.

The newspaper has rejected accusations of bias, but neither it nor its owners have responded to Mr. Duterte’s tax accusation.

The President earlier said Mr. Ang has financed some of his trips during the campaign period, but the businessman did not acknowledge the campaign-related contribution.

“The family is confident that Mr. Ang will uphold the Inquirer Group’s commitment to pursuing the highest standards of journalism,” the Inquirer Group said, adding that all existing employment contracts will remain in effect.

“His investments and business expertise will unlock added value in the Inquirer Group’s newspaper publication, Internet communications, social media, corporate skills training, radio broadcasting, and logistics delivery.”

Shares in San Miguel added 40 centavos or 0.39% to close at P102.90 apiece yesterday. -- with reports from Arra B. Francia and Reuters