PLDT shareholder could exit the Philippines if regulators approve new foreign ownership rules

14 Jan 2013

The Manila Standard Today writes that global investment group Lazard Asset Management, which has around USD1 billion worth of funds invested in the Philippines, is threatening to exit the country if the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) forges ahead with its plan to revise foreign ownership rules there. Lazard is a major shareholder in Filipino telco PLDT, but is concerned over a plan from the SEC to implement a 60:40 ownership rule in favour of Filipino-domiciled investors for ‘every class of share’. Rohit Chopra, a portfolio manager at the group, sent a letter to the SEC chairman Teresita Herbosa, suggesting that the bourse’s proposed foreign ownership changes ‘may negatively impact the country as a destination capital.’ The letter went on to note that Lazard Asset Management has been a shareholder in the country’s dominant telco PLDT for more than ten years, but ‘is concerned that the proposed changes may negatively impact the country as a destination capital,’ adding that the group ‘would like to continue to own shares on behalf of our clients, but may be forced to sell our holding if the regulation changes’. Lazard prefers that the limit on foreign ownership be calculated as a percentage of total shares, rather than being segregated on the class of share, arguing that the proposed changes would unfairly group its ‘passive interests with those of possible foreign strategic investors’.