Monthly Archives: November 2012

Aussie are coffee drinkers now

Aussies are shifting from being tea to coffee and from chain cafes to individual ones.

From StartupSmart

Full of beans: Coffee overtakes tea in popularity as Aussies ditch chain cafes

By Michelle Hammond
Thursday, 29 November 2012

Coffee has overtaken tea as the hot drink of choice for Australian consumers, according to a new report, with an industry analyst suggesting independent cafés are now more popular than coffee chains.

 

The Coffee and Beverages 2012 report series, released by BISFoodService, is based on a consumer survey of 1,200 respondents aged 14 and over.

 

These results were combined with BISFoodService’s proprietary database information, official figures and online databases.

 

The away-from-home and away-from-work market for coffee, in terms of number of units purchased, increased from 1.8 billion in 2010 to 2.1 billion in 2012, according to the report.

 

This represents a jump by nearly a fifth (19.5%).

 

This is despite the cost of coffee rising sharply. In the last two years, the average price of an away-from-home, espresso-based coffee rose 7% from an average of $3.62 per cup to $3.86.

 

Within the next two years, the away-from-home coffee market is expected to grow between 10% and 15%.

 

But according to Sissel Rosengren, head of BIS Foodservice, drive-through coffee chains make up just a “tiny percentage” of the market.

 

“When you look at our market compared to the UK market and the US market, we are not a chain market,” Rosengren told StartupSmart.

 

“Australian consumers want to go to independent cafés and independent restaurants, and we have a unique food service market in that sense.”

 

Rosengren also believes the consumption of coffee is now an ingrained part of our daily lives.

 

“When you look at this research, you ask for the reasons why people have a cup of coffee… You have it for no reason at all. In other words, coffee is part of your life,” she says.

 

“Coffee is now part of the fabric of society.”

 

On average, every Australian aged 14 and over spends $8.60 per week on coffee away from home, the report reveals. This equates to $447 per year.

 

Australians drink 1.8 coffees in a typical week, both away from home and away from the workplace, representing a rise of 0.3 coffees per person since 2010.

 

According to Rosengren, the majority (62%) of coffee consumption takes place mid-morning, followed by mid-afternoon (35%) and early morning (30%).

 

“We are basically changing from a tea-drinking nation to a coffee-loving nation. The younger generations are driving that,” Rosengren says.

 

“Every socioeconomic group, as well as every age group, is now drinking coffee. It doesn’t matter what kind of profession you have or what background you come from, you drink coffee.”

 

The way to capitalise on this, Rosengren says, is to make coffee a key part of your offering – even if it’s not your primary product.

 

She uses Krispy Kreme as an example of a brand that has failed to promote its coffee.

 

“Krispy Kreme’s [promotion of] coffee wasn’t particularly effective as, for example, Muffin Break. People went there for a doughnut, full stop,” she says.

 

The rise of coffee coincides with the demise of tea. According to BISFoodService, the average number of units of tea consumed per person per week at home has fallen from 8.6 to 7.9.

 

And unlike coffee, tea “falls short” away from home, Rosengren says.

 

“Tea is simply not resonating with younger individuals,” she says.

How to be efficient with energy

For the Philippines, energy efficiency should be one of the efforts being promoted to make effective use of its use particularly due to it s high cost.

 

How to Unleash an Energy Efficiency Boom

Elisa WoodPublished on Date October 19th, 2012 by Elisa Wood

In 2010, China built more housing than Spain has homes. That factoid underscores the significance of energy efficiency for buildings in a report released this week by an affiliate of the respected publication, The Economist.

Commissioned by the Global Buildings PerformanceNetwork, the report emerged from a survey of real estate and construction executives in the European Union, India, China and the US.

It offered promising news: The right policy signals could unleash an international boom in energy efficiency.

What motivates these professionals? Not surprisingly, it’s the potential they see to cut costs. They “are ready to go deep and are waiting for the right policy signals that can scale up energy efficiency in the sector,” said GBPN in the report.

Although barriers exist, business leaders in building and real estate already are pursuing a range of efficiency measures. The survey found that:

    • Energy usage is important for most of the companies and is key factor in investment decisions to 63% of those surveyed. Companies that describe themselves as “financially successful” rated energy particularly high.
      • Lighting retrofits scored high among actions companies are taking. About 57 percent are replacing lighting, 50 percent

    HVAC systems

      and 50 percent building insulation.
    • Forty percent are reconfiguring building layout to take advantage of natural light.
    • Energy efficiency is a risk management tool for 69 percent, a sign that they have a sophisticated understanding of energy.

Not all of the news was good, however. Companies are unaware of the actual costs of their energy use. Less than a third have commissioned energy audits for their buildings. Further, two thirds of those surveyed overestimate the cost of energy efficient construction.

A surprising 75 percent saw benefit in energy regulation and described lack of enforcement as a problem. The solution? Not too much carrot and not too much stick, concluded the survey report.

“While the survey shows that most companies prefer carrots, at some point governments also need to wield the stick,” the report said. “Striking the right balance between incentives and restrictions is not easy. Excessive red tape and mixed messages are costly to business and slow the adoption of more efficient technologies. The market needs clear long-term signals, rational expectations and opportunities for a reasonable return on investment.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 423 senior executives from the real estate and construction industries in the summer 2012. About 27 percent of those surveyed came from the US, 24 percent from the European Union, 25 percent from China and 24 percent from India. All of those surveyed worked in operations, strategy or finance. More than half were C-level executives or above and nearly half from businesses with more than $500 million in global annual revenue.

The full report, “Energy Efficiency and Energy Savings: A View from the Building Sector,” is available for download at http://www.globalbuildings.org/news/new-report-businesses-are-ready-to-go-deep.

Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer whose work appears in many of the industry’s top magazines and newsletters. She is publisher of the Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

PH Property boom continues

And the property boom now happening in the Philippines continues fueled by the growing BPO industry and foreign remittances of OFWs. Let’s hope a similar boom is led by the government in public infrastructure.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

November 26, 2012

Manila rising, and so are rents

MANILA’S CHANGING skyline demonstrates a city coming up in the world.

The Philippines’ capital is in the throes of a property boom described as the best in two decades, reflecting increasing confidence in an economy that only recently began shedding its image as one of the region’s basket cases.

Nowhere is it more obvious than at Bonifacio Global City, carved out from Manila’s biggest army base. Originally sold by a cash-strapped government in the mid-’90s, building only got underway in earnest during the last six years after Ayala Land, Inc. took ownership.

“Work here is 24 hours,” said Renel Reyes, an engineer and property manager overseeing a 30-storey tower due to be completed by the year-end.

Soon to be home for Nickel Asia Corp. and local conglomerate Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc., NAC Tower is just one of several tower blocks under construction.

Located near Makati, the main business district that grew up in the 1970s, Bonifacio is a project in progress, but rents at P800 per square meter ($19.5) are already catching up with its older, established, but saturated rival.

Though rents paid in Makati have recovered almost 30% in the last three years, they are still way below the peak of P1,200/sqm ($29) paid before the global financial crisis hit in 2008, data from property manager and consultancy Jones Lang La Salle Leechiu (JLL) shows.

That makes renting in Manila’s business districts far cheaper than Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore. But then infrastructure remains a drawback, as anyone arriving at Manila’s airport quickly realizes.

Still, as Bonifacio lures companies tired of Makati’s cramped spaces with its sprawling parks, luxury hotel chains and Italian supercar makers have followed the money. Lamborghini opened its first Philippine showroom, side by side with Ferrari, in Bonifacio, while Hyatt and Shangri La hotels are opening there soon.

Office space in most new buildings are snapped long before completion. At the NAC Tower, for example, only six floors remain un-let, but Mr. Reyes said they have potential takers.

Take up of new office space this year is set to hit a record 400,000 to 450,000 sqm, up as much as 25% from last year, according to Jones Lang and CBRE Philippines, another of the country’s biggest property manager and advisers.

“Pre-leasing is back,” said Rick Santos, chairman of CBRE. “We are now experiencing the best real estate market in the Philippines in the last 20 years.”

The primary driver of demand for office space comes from business process outsourcing (BPO) firms catering for European and American multinationals that want to cut costs.

With one of the region’s fastest growth rates, GDP grew 6.1% in the first half, the Philippines has shown resilience in the face of falling demand in the West and China that other more export driven economies must envy.

Analysts say the Philippines could achieve its first investment grade sovereign debt credit rating in the next 12 months.

Strong private and public consumption has underpinned growth, while inflows of foreign capital have driven the stock market to new peaks and the peso to near five-year highs.

An anti-corruption drive launched soon after President Benigno S. C. Aquino III came to power in 2010 has help the Philippines’ image.

Low inflation, low interest rates, and a ready supply of reliable, English-proficient labor are strong draws.

The vibrancy is evident in Bonifacio, where shops are open until midnight and fast-food chains and coffee shops cater round the clock, mainly for call center employees.

The BPO sector accounts for 80-90% of office space take up in the country, and is a major source of employment for the country’s nearly half a million new college graduates annually. The industry is forecast to double its current employee base of more than 600,000 by 2016, fuelling sustained growth in demand for office space.

But steady growth in demand from the traditional front office market such as banks, insurance firms, and representative offices is also fuelling the property boom.

CBRE’s Mr. Santos saw the Philippines, known as the world’s call center capital, fast becoming Asia’s back office banking hub.

JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, Bank of America, Citibank, ANZ and Deutsche Bank have all transferred critical back office processes to Manila in the last five years, while Wells Fargo is among the more recent newcomers.

Rents are expected to stabilize in coming years as new office space totalling at least 1.3 million sqm become available in 2013 to 2015, according to Jones Lang, with little danger of property bubbles as supply is just keeping up with demand.

Outside Manila, a similar transformation is unfolding, with industrial parks, especially those close to the capital and devoted to manufacturing, drawing more foreign firms than ever before, despite cribs about the high price paid for power.

“What we are seeing now is the re-emergence of manufacturing, which is really good for the economy because manufacturing employs people that the BPO industry won’t employ,” Lindsay Orr, Jones Lang chief operating officer, said. — Reuters

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=TopStory&title=Manila rising, and so are rents&id=62054

Australian Education: Quality and cheap

Australian college education is one of the country’s big exports. Part of the reason is because of its high quality. And for the Chinese its also cheaper.

From the New York Times
November 21, 2012
A Chinese Education, for a Price

by Dan Levin

BEIJING — For Chinese children and their devoted parents, education has long been seen as the key to getting ahead in a highly competitive society. But just as money and power grease business deals and civil servant promotions, the academic race here is increasingly rigged in favor of the wealthy and well connected, who pay large sums and use connections to give their children an edge at government-run schools.

Nearly everything has a price, parents and educators say, from school admissions and placement in top classes to leadership positions in Communist youth groups. Even front-row seats near the blackboard or a post as class monitor are up for sale.

Zhao Hua, a migrant from Hebei Province who owns a small electronics business here, said she was forced to deposit $4,800 into a bank account to enroll her daughter in a Beijing elementary school. At the bank, she said, she was stunned to encounter officials from the district education committee armed with a list of students and how much each family had to pay. Later, school officials made her sign a document saying the fee was a voluntary “donation.”

“Of course I knew it was illegal,” she said. “But if you don’t pay, your child will go nowhere.”

Bribery has become so rife that Xi Jinping devoted his first speech after being named the Communist Party’s new leader this month to warning the Politburo that corruption could lead to the collapse of the party and the state if left unchecked. Indeed, ordinary Chinese have become inured to a certain level of official malfeasance in business and politics.

But the lack of integrity among educators and school administrators is especially dispiriting, said Li Mao, an educational consultant in Beijing. “It’s much more upsetting when it happens with teachers because our expectations of them are so much higher,” he said.

Affluent parents in the United States and around the world commonly seek to provide their children every advantage, of course, including paying for tutors and test preparation courses, and sometimes turning to private schools willing to accept wealthy students despite poor grades.

But critics say China’s state-run education system — promoted as the hallmark of Communist meritocracy — is being overrun by bribery and cronyism. Such corruption has broadened the gulf between the haves and have-nots as Chinese families see their hopes for the future sold to the highest bidder.

“Corruption is pervasive in every part of Chinese society, and education is no exception,” Mr. Li said.

It begins even before the first day of school as the competition for admission to elite schools has created a lucrative side business for school officials and those connected to them.

Each spring, the Clean China Kindergarten, which is affiliated with the prestigious Tsinghua University and situated on its manicured campus in Beijing, receives a flood of requests from parents who see enrollment there as a conduit into one of China’s best universities. Officially, the school is open only to children of Tsinghua faculty. But for the right price — about 150,000 renminbi, or about $24,000, according to a staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation — a Tsinghua professor can be persuaded to “sponsor” an applicant.

Parents with less direct connections have to bribe a chain of people for their child to be admitted to the kindergarten. “The more removed you are from the school, the more money you need,” the staff member said. “It can really add up.”

A school official denied that outsiders could pay their way in.

The costs can increase as college gets closer. Chinese news media reported recently that the going bribery rate for admission to a high school linked to the renowned Renmin University in Beijing is $80,000 to $130,000.

Government officials have also found a way to game the system. The 21st Century Business Herald, a state-run newspaper, reported that powerful agencies and state-owned enterprises frequently donated to top schools under what is known as a “joint development” policy. In exchange, education reformers say, the children of their employees are given an admissions advantage.

The same practice has been taken up by private companies that provide “corporate sponsorships” to top schools.

In China, education through junior high school is mandatory, and free, but the reality is often more complicated. As a child grows up, parents lacking connections must pay repeatedly for better educational opportunities. Across the country, such payments take the form of “school choice” fees that open the door to schools outside the district or town listed on a family’s official residency permit.

These illegal fees are especially onerous for the millions of struggling migrant workers who have moved to distant cites. The Ministry of Education and the State Council, China’s cabinet, have officially banned “school choice” and other unregulated fees five times since 2005, yet school officials and relevant government departments keep finding creative ways around the ban, allowing them to keep the cash flowing.

At some top-ranked high schools, students with low admission test scores can “buy” a few crucial points that put them over the threshold for admission. According to an unwritten but widely known policy at one elite Beijing high school, students receive an extra point for each $4,800 their parents contribute to the school. “All my classmates know about it,” said Polly Wang, 15, a student who asked that the school not be named to avoid repercussion.

Surrounded by a culture where cash is king, teachers often find their own ways to make up for their dismal salaries. Qin Liwen, a journalist who writes about education, said that some instructors run cram schools on the side and encourage attendance by failing to teach their students a vital chunk of the curriculum during the school day.

“Why do something for free when everyone is paying you?” Ms. Qin said. Faced with the prospect of their child’s missing critical material or incurring the teacher’s wrath, many parents feel compelled to pay for these extra courses, she said.

The culture of brown-nosing becomes a costly competition during Teacher Appreciation Day, a national holiday in September, when students of all ages are expected to bring gifts. Gone are the days when a floral bouquet or fruit basket would suffice. According to reports in the Chinese news media, many teachers now expect to be given designer watches, expensive teas, gift cards and even vacations. In Inner Mongolia, some parents said, more assertive teachers welcome debit cards attached to bank accounts that can be replenished throughout the year.

The value of such gifts, the newspaper Shanghai Daily estimated, has grown 50 times from a decade ago.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Ms. Zhao, the owner of the Beijing electronics business and parent of a 10-year-old girl. “If you don’t give a nice present and the other parents do, you’re afraid the teacher will pay less attention to your kid.”

Poor students are the most vulnerable in this culture of bribery. Bao Hong, 33, a maid in Beijing, used to think her 7-year-old daughter, Rui, was having a tough time at school because she was reared in the countryside by her grandparents. Ms. Bao now blames her teachers.

Last year, she said, a teacher slapped her daughter and called her “stupid.” In the spring, the teacher stopped grading Rui’s homework and then skipped a mandatory home visit. “My daughter’s discriminated against because we don’t make much money,” Ms. Bao said, standing outside the room she rents with her husband, a street cleaner.

Some parents have found that the only way to preserve any integrity is to reject a Chinese education altogether. Disgusted by the endemic bribery, Wang Ping, 37, a bar owner in Beijing, decided to send her son abroad for his education. In August, she wept as she waved goodbye to her only child, whom she had enrolled at a public high school in Iowa.

“China’s education system is unfair to children from the very beginning of their lives,” she said. “I don’t want my son to have anything more to do with it.”

Shi Da and Mia Li contributed research.

Orthopedic Center PPP now available

Here’s another opportunity for Australian business to invest in the Philippines with this next PPP to be bidded out.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

November 25, 2012

Orthopedic Center PPP offered to investors

ANOTHER public-private partnership (PPP) project has been rolled out by the government, with the Health department calling for bids to build and operate a new Philippine Orthopedic Center.

The P5.6 billion-project — approved by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III on Sept. 8 — involves a 25-year contract for the construction as well as operations and maintenance of a 700-bed hospital inside the National Kidney and Transplant Institute compound in Quezon City.

Bid documents for the project will be available for P250,000 starting today until Feb. 25 next year, the Health department said. A pre-bid conference will be held on Jan. 25, 2013 and qualified bidders have until March 26 to submit their offers.

Health Undersecretary Teodoro J. Herbosa, officer-in-charge of the department’s PPP projects, had said they were looking to award the contract by May next year.

Prospective bidders are expected to procure, install and manage “modern diagnostics and clinical equipment” as well as “teaching and training facilities for basic and advanced clinical care.” They also need to provide “appropriately qualified staff,” including medical, paramedical, nursing and support personnel.

The Orthopedic Center project joins two other PPP projects — the P60-billion Light Rail Transit-1 extension and the P15.86-billion NAIA Expressway 2 — that are now in the advanced stages of being bid out.

Two PPP projects been awarded since the government unveiled its flagship infrastructure program in 2010. The P1.96-billion Daang Hari-Southern Luzon Expressway link was given to Ayala Corp. last December. The second, a P16.42-billion project to build 9,300 classrooms in Luzon, was won in September by the BF Corp.-Riverbanks Development Corp. and Citicore Investments holdings, Inc.-Megawide Construction Corp., Inc. consortiums.

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=TopStory&title=Orthopedic Center PPP offered to investors&id=61984

Marcos and the Philippines

If there is one thing a foreigner will know about the Philippines in recent history chances are it will be about Ferdinand Marcos and how he ran the country. While he had passed away in 1989, his wife and kids continue to be alive and politically well despite of what he did to the country while in public office. One saving value of this situation is our much forgiving culture to look the other way and give his family a second chance. It may be possible also that this was a result of massive poverty and the absence of an educated electorate that makes people indifferent. Regardless, in the end, no one lives forever even for a dynasty.

From the Sydney Morning Herald

“A dynasty on steroids”

Published: November 24, 2012

Human-rights abuses, criminal activities and the embezzling of billions of dollars were defining features of the US-backed conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Twenty-six years after they fled the Philippines, Jackie Dent talks to the family and finds it as arrogant, entrenched and popular as ever.

She arrives looking like a teenage girl en route to a music festival, with tousled sexy hair, reflector shades, tight denim jeans, purple thongs with purple flowers and two brightly coloured fashion rubber bands on her wrists. But 57-year-old Maria Imelda Marcos, known by everyone simply as Imee, has just come from dealing with the aftermath of a typhoon that destroyed a major bridge in Ilocos Norte, the northern Filipino province of which she is governor. Down by the river, she had bought bananas from a trader whose truck was stranded. “He couldn’t cross the river and they were going ripe in the hot sun,” she sighs. “Poor sod.”

For the glamorous Imee – first-born child of former Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda, Princeton graduate, former international fugitive, lawyer, filmmaker and actress – the banana-buying of grassroots politics is a fate she has reluctantly accepted. Dry, sleepy, tobacco-growing Ilocos Norte has been Marcos territory ever since Imee’s father was elected to the House of Representatives in 1949. And for the Marcos family – as it is for the rest of the wealthy, oligarchic families that control their own fiefdoms in this impoverished nation – it must stay that way.

US historian Alfred McCoy estimates that the Marcos regime killed more than 3200 people, tortured 35,000 and incarcerated 70,000, surpassing the brutality of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. And yet, despite the family’s history, it is still political and financial business as usual for the Marcos clan and many of its associates.

Ferdinand may have died in exile in Honolulu in September 1989 of kidney, heart and lung ailments, but since the remaining members of his family returned to the Philippines in 1991, they’ve been passing the baton among themselves for various political posts in Ilocos Norte – that of governor, vice-governor and seats in the House of Representatives and Senate. While Imee is currently governor, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, 55, is a senator. Their mother Imelda, 83, still impressively bouffanted and clad in the terno, a traditional butterfly-sleeved dress, has a seat in the House of Representatives. A third daughter, Irene, has stayed away from politics, while adopted Aimee is a musician.

Imee – whacky, wise-cracking and a crush for some male journalists in Manila, the capital – admits she struggles with the governor’s job she has “avoided for years”; she’d rather be in Manila, making films, cartoons and games with Cream, her production company. Her film career has had some success, too; her part-animation hip-hop fairy tale, Pintakasi, won a number of awards at the recent Metro Manila Film Festival. But she was forced to take on the job when her cousin, Michael Marcos Keon, who became governor of Ilocos Norte in 2007, declined to run again in 2010. No one else in the family was available or interested.

Why does a Marcos have to run all the time? “It’s the whole Filipino system – they really count on you, they have all these expectations,” she tells me. “Your family is taking care of their family, which is taking care of your family and it just goes on and on and on. It’s pretty feudal in the Philippines still, even though we like to fool ourselves.”

It is normal in the former US and Spansh colony for families to control provinces for generations – the Laurel clan run Batangas, the Osmeñas control Cebu, the López family manages Iloilo. The Aquinos – arch foes of the Marcoses – have run Tarlac for five generations and are currently the most powerful clan, with Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III now president, a job held by his mother Corazon (or “Cory”), who succeeded Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The animosity between the two families is akin to that of the Montagues and the Capulets. Like a grand sporting game, Filipinos root either for a Marcos or an Aquino. Or hate them both.

When Imee isn’t buying bananas to help a poor trader, other items on her agenda include urban planning, tackling rabid dogs and revitalising tourism, in particular the “Marcos Trail”. The tour takes in the family’s former summer home, a rundown, hagiographic museum to Ferdinand and Imelda, and a bizarre mausoleum where her father’s body lies on permanent display.

“At the end of the day, aside from being melodramatic, we [Filipinos] are all gossipy villagers. We like to see where he slept and what she ate for breakfast … so we’ve opened our houses,” Imee says. “The only problem is that I was staying there once – it is early in the morning, you haven’t washed your face, or brushed your teeth … and they want to take photos of you and the kids!” (Imee, who’s separated from her husband, Tommy Manotoc, has three sons, Fernando Martin – or “Borgy” – Michael and Matthew.)

Locals in Batac, the friendly, small, scruffy town where Marcos was born, tend to roll their eyes when asked if the body is real. A guard at the mausoleum, against a soundtrack of Gregorian chanting, tells me it is “coated in wax”. At rest in a glass coffin in a black, high-ceilinged room reminiscent of a medieval dungeon, Ferdinand’s “corpse” is dressed in a barong – the embroidered traditional shirt worn by Filipino men – and is shoeless according to Ilocano tradition. His coiffed hair looks disturbingly similar to the style sported by actor Christopher Walken. While receipts have shown that Imelda used to request her room at the Waldorf be filled with $US10,000 worth of flowers whenever she arrived, the flowers filling the space here are composed of small, glued-together seashells.

Ferdinand Marcos was considered a genius. He knew the Filipino constitution backwards and topped the bar examinations in 1939 while appealing a murder charge. (He’d been convicted of the 1935 murder of his father Mariano’s political rival Julio Nalundasan and, after initially receiving the death penalty, was acquitted in 1940.) “He came from the post-war generation whose notion of nation-building involved a lot of planning, development – literally, building – because the Philippines was bombed to the ground duringWorld War II,” says Imee. “It is not a surprise, it is not unpredictable, that a lot of ‘strong men of Asia’ derived from that generation.”

While Marcos had a top-notch cabinet (my father, Desmond Dent, worked for Philippines transport minister Jose Dans in the early ’80s), built swathes of infrastructure and tried to end the power of the oligarchs, Marcos’s power ultimately became corrupted. Given that he declared a state of martial law in September 1972 over exaggerated fears of a communist insurgency, it’s ironic that he shares the same encased-in-glass fate as Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong.

When asked directly whether the return of the Marcoses is merely perpetuating the oligarchic politics that plagues the country, Manila-based Bongbong, whose demeanour hovers between playful schoolboy and displeased patrician, replies with mirth: “I always find the ‘return to politics’ a misnomer: we never left, we never left!” Or, as Imee remarks drolly about Filipino politics, “It is nepotism plus plus, a dynasty on steroids.”

While the pair make light of the Filipino political structures that have long favoured their family, the hunt for the estimated billions their parents and cronies are alleged to have stolen from the Filipino government – and the hope for the dispensation of justice to those who suffered directly at the hands of the regime – continue.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), established in 1986 after the fall of the Marcos regime, has so far managed to recover $US2 billion stolen by Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates, and has identified a further $US5 billion that still needs to be recovered. Of the $US2 billion returned, more than $600 million came from bank accounts in Switzerland, where the late Marcos secretly deposited money.

Exactly how much money Marcos pilfered will probably remain a mystery. A 2007 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank estimates that $US5-$10 billion worth of assets were taken – a figure disputed by Bongbong, who says these numbers “were thrown out and taken on”. The modus operandi is said to have ranged from the audacious to the highly secretive. Large private companies were taken over, money from foreign aid was skimmed off and state-owned monopolies in crucial parts of the economy were created. In some instances, public coffers were directly raided, as if they were personal bank accounts.

Imelda Marcos is currently listed as the second-richest person in the Filipino parliament (the richest is international boxing sensation Manny Pacquio), while her alleged cronies also remain comfortably off. The PCGG recently lost a 25-year-old case against tobacco tycoon Lucio Tan, the second-richest man in the Philippines. While Forbesmagazine estimated his worth to be $US2.1 billion last year, the government has accused him, alongside the Marcos family, of having amassed his wealth through a number of illegal avenues.

The chair of the PCGG is Andy Bautista, a well-known lawyer and academic in Filipino legal circles, and a recent nominee for the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Dressed in a barong, he exudes a curious mix of pragmatism and bemusement at the magnitude of his job, which he took on in 2010. The PCGG itself has borne accusations of having failed to deliver on its mandate and of profligate spending, including nearly $US4 million on foreign travel between 2005 and September 2010 – 19 of its members travelling to Rio De Janiero to attend an international law association conference in 2008 spent $US160,000. In a country where poverty is rife, these figures are significant. Bautista also believes that former staff were leaking information to the cronies they were investigating.

The PCGG team includes Filipino graduates of Oxford and the London School of Economics. While hunting missing assets, they are also overseeing 11 sequestered and surrendered corporations that either Ferdinand Marcos or his cronies took control of, as well as monitoring 279 cases still pending in court, most of which were filed in 1986 and 1987.

“After 25 years, people have forgotten, evidence has been lost, the witnesses are gone and it’s been business as usual as far as the majority of Filipino people are concerned,” says Bautista, who now travels with a bodyguard.

When asked to describe the nature of the corruption, Bautista remarks: “It was really total control of the economy.” He then shakes his head. “It was excess to the max, it was too much.” These excesses of wealth and power eventually toppled the Marcoses in 1986 when the bloodless “People Power Revolution” erupted over four days in February. Realising that Marcos was finished politically, the US government withdrew its support and the family was forced to dramatically flee the country on Feburary 25, 1986 – first by helicopter out of Malacañang Palace and then on a jet provided by the US government.

Receipts, contracts and Ferdinand Marcos’s personal diaries left behind in the palace when the family fled are now stored in vaults in the basement of the PCGG. Three caches of Imelda’s jewels valued at between $US10 million and $20 million, including a 37-carat diamond, tiaras and an intricately woven 18-carat gold belt, are at the Central Bank, with Bautista hoping to put them on display before they are sold, the eventual monies from the sales to be returned to the Philippines government. Eight hundred pairs of shoes from Imelda’s notorious collection are now housed in a small museum in Manila.

But an unknown number of properties and assets remain missing, including 145 paintings by masters such as Cézanne, Magritte and Brueghel the Younger. All that is left of Van Gogh’s Peasant Woman Winding Bobbins is its brass plaque, which was found at Imelda’s townhouse on East 66th Street in New York City in 1986.

While the Marcoses have not been convicted of any crimes in their homeland, international courts have been tougher. In 1996, more than 9500 Filipino victims of torture and the relatives of those who were executed or disappeared obtained a final judgment in a US Federal Court in Hawaii against Ferdinand Marcos’s estate for almost $US2 billion – approximately $US200,000 per person. In October this year, the Marcos family was fined more than $353 million for having ignored the court order for the last 16 years. Collecting the money from this judgment has turned into a complex international saga, as the governments of the Philippines, Switzerland and the US have argued that all recovered assets belong to the Philippines treasury and cannot, therefore, go to these victims.

The separate recovery in the United States of $10 million from Jose Yao Campos, a Marcos crony, led to the distribution of $US1000 to some 7500 victims and their relatives in 2011 which, while small, is considered a start.

The High Court of Singapore recently ruled in yet another complex case that human rights groups had no claim to more than $US23 million in illicit Marcos funds that had been located in Switzerland and moved to banks in Singapore.

Senator “bongbong” marcos’s office on Roxas Boulevard in Manila has been transformed for an interview with Wasak, a kooky Filipino comedy series. When the senator arrives from a busy day in parliament, the presenters, crew and hangers-on greet him warmly. Despite the persistence of a bizarre urban myth in the Philippines that the real Bongbong Marcos was killed in London and that this man is a replacement, today it is possible to see unmistakable glimpses of his father in his bearing.

Portraits of Bongbong in various poses – wearing flares in the ’70s, toting a gun, in earnest discussion with his father – line the corridors and walls of his large and bustling electoral office. There are numerous certificates of appreciation and plaques, including one thanking him for being part of an “Island Paradise Adventure Race”.

Affable and talkative, Bongbong Marcos is a polished political performer who carries the confidence of a man whose way was always well paved for him. Sent to board at Worth School in West Sussex in the UK because of fears he would be kidnapped, he went on to study political science, philosophy and economics at Oxford and gained an MBA at Wharton University of Pennsylvania.

Once, in the company of his colourful mother, he met an aging Mao Zedong and recalls that she gave the communist dictator a lozenge after he coughed. Later, in the family’s apartment in the Carlton Hotel in New York, he met Andy Warhol. “He had decided that we shouldn’t speak to him, but to his dog,” Bongbong confides. “And I was wearing a barong for some reason and he said, ‘That’s a beautiful shirt’ and I said, ‘Have it.’ So Andy Warhol had a barong of mine!”

I ask him, light-heartedly, if he ever developed a shoe fetish as a consequence of his mother’s most famous indulgence and he stammers a reply. “After that whole thing with the shoes, I walk into other people’s homes and think these people have a more severe case of shoe collecting than my mother did. But me? Not really – I am simply not a vain person,” he says.

Since the collection is almost emblematic of Imelda’s extravagance, I ask him, “Has it haunted you a bit – the shoe thing?”

“We know where the shoes came from,” he says. “It’s not as if the woman spent 24 hours just doing nothing but buying more and more shoes because we needed more shoes. It simply did not happen that way at all. I mean 20 years of being sent shoes by the shoe industry will account for a great number of shoes that were found.”

He says he decided initially that he didn’t want to be a politician. “My dad had pretty much done it all as far as politics [was concerned] – what else are you going to do that he hasn’t done? And whatever happens, no matter what you do, you will be in his shadow. No matter what you do, you will be compared because it’s very easy to compare one politician against the other.”

While Bongbong doesn’t say if and when he will make a play for the presidency, he seems interested in the job. “My view is always this: any person in any kind of organisation wants to reach the top and I think any politician would dream of being president.”

Curiously, Bongbong seems to think that his family did nothing wrong and has nothing to apologise for. He says they have either won cases or they have been dismissed.

I say: “You have money and power. In terms of the victims of your father’s regime …”

“We have a judgment against us in the billions. What more would people want? That we open our veins and die before them? Is that the solution?”

I put it to him that it has been documented that people were tortured, money was appropriated and a Hawaiian court has found against the family. He laughs. “Well, that is one opinion and that is what the prosecutors would say,” he says.

He argues that history will be the best judge of the family, choosing to turn a blind eye to the extensive body of work already published by Filipino and international academics documenting the brutality of his father’s government. He points out that if people believed that the family deserved to be punished and jailed, various members of the clan would not keep getting voted back into office. He then tells a story about when he returned to the Philippines from exile in 1991 expecting trouble and felt welcomed at the airport. He asked for a phone and immediately called Imelda in Hawaii.

“‘Mom, it’s time to come home,’ ” he told her. “ ’We will walk the streets, nobody is going to hurt us.’ And sure enough, when she came home, people were out in the streets cheering her on.”

I first meet Imelda in January of this year, in a beautiful, old, Spanish-style house in Pandacan, a busy inner-city district in Manila. It is the day of the Buling Buling, a local religious festival, which typically involves singing, dancing and the wearing of incredible costumes.

She claims that the mansion is her ancestral home; in fact, it belonged to a wealthy uncle, Miguel Romualdez, and two gold lions sit at the front door, their paws hanging over embellished MR letters. Imelda’s father Vincente was the dreamer of the family and she subsequently grew up in poverty, living in a garage in Manila and, later, in a thatched hut in provincial Leyte. Her childhood poverty goes some way towards explaining her extraordinary acquisitiveness as an adult.

Imelda, now 83, is probably the most famous Asian woman of her generation, a cultural figure who has inspired musicals, walking tours, plays, transvestites and the adjective Imeldific, which means to be … well, like Imelda. In the two hours I spend hanging around her, she is charismatic and entertaining, yet bizarre.

She hands out a booklet on her life theories called Mothering the Rising Spirit which includes strange charts and a raft of theories involving Pac-Man, infinity symbols and triangles. The booklet also lists her and Ferdinand’s achievements, ranging from land reform to sharia courts for Muslims to the delivering of “basic services” to the general population.

Imelda is still beautiful and still exudes wealth, qualities that made her a heroine for the poor and a hit in the international political arena. Like a number of urban Filipino women, her skin is unblemished, almost like a child’s. As she speaks, her fingers are busy with enormous rings, her wrists laden with a collection of jade and gold bracelets.

At one point, two young girls in white, high-necked outfits reminiscent of a chemist’s are sent to get a picture book about her life. It features hundreds of photographs of her younger glamorous self with various state leaders, including Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro – all the bad boys of global politics in the ’60s and ’70s. “Gaddafi was good-looking,” she recalls, then mentions Castro once said he was driven by two people: his mother and Imelda Marcos.

Later, we’re called to the front of the house, where Imelda waves to the crowds from a balcony. A huge throng of men, women, children and press are waving back and grooving along to a brass band, which is playing an impressive rendition of Jesse J’s Price Tag. She listlessly throws lollies at the children.

At one point, she pulls me over next to her and I look down to see the children yelling out for more lollies. She stands waving, oblivious to their urgency and I say to her: “Imelda, you need to throw the lollies at the children.” She throws more, but the children aren’t satisfied, so I start throwing them down from the balcony. She descends and climbs into a vehicle that’s part of a motorcade that crawls through the streets of Pandacan towards the main stage for the festival. The crowd cheers her in the way that they would cheer on a returning Olympian or the Queen.

Dictators have all faced unique and varied fates. Benito Mussolini was executed outside an Italian villa; Gaddafi – Imelda’s former friend – died in the desert, killed by rebels; Robert Mugabe and Castro will probably die in power. Why are Filipinos so willing to embrace the Marcos family again?

Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister of Singapore for three decades, writes of the Philippines in his recently published From Third World to First: “It is a soft, forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics.”

Yew is not unique in his assessment: Filipino friends I talk to share a similar viewpoint. But for journalist Carmen Pedrosa, the reason the Marcoses have re-established themselves is a complex mix of poverty, lack of education and flawed political structures. The well-known columnist wrote a sensational biography about Imelda in 1969, in which revelations about the First Lady’s impoverished childhood forced Pedrosa and her family into exile.

“There are basically apolitical people in this country because of the poverty,” she says.

“My daughter says this is the most ‘existential’ country in the world – people just want to live. Basically, people don’t ask what does this mean or how did it happen? They have to earn their living.”

Pedrosa says dissatisfaction with the current Aquino regime has led people to ask whether the Marcoses were so bad. “They contrast the two families and say things like: ‘At least during Marcos’s time we saw things being built and now there is nothing, just incompetence,’ ” she says. “There is also disappointment that we had a revolution but it did nothing to change lives. People think: ‘What does it matter? It is just the same whether we have Marcos or Aquino.’ ”

She says the country needs to introduce a parliamentary-style party structure and move away from a system where people vote for one president. “With 50 million people nationwide, 90 per cent are politically illiterate – what would you expect of the result? It is about money and popularity,” she says, adding that this is why actors are often successfully voted in. “There is no way you can win an election without patronage, funding and pork barrelling.”

Pedrosa believes that the Marcos family are a “finished thing … they may be attempting to come back, but it will not be a success.”

It is July. The large open-air gymnasium in Batac is decked out in flowers and colourful lights for Imelda’s 83rd birthday party. Hundreds of people are seated at round tables, including a party of stylish old women in traditional Ilocano outfits – long skirts, embroidered blouses and embellished gold necklaces. Bats hang from the rafters above. Poor people stand on the sidelines to watch what turns into a singing, dancing and eating extravaganza.

Imelda hits the dance floor for a boogie with her grandson Borgy, 29, and his stunning model and TV-presenter girlfriend Georgina Wilson. Later, Imelda gives an impassioned speech about how she once advised Chairman Mao. Towards the end of the evening, Imee turns up, elegant with her hair swept back. Soon after, Imelda sits on a throne with a floral wreath on her head – the flowers a tradition for those celebrating their birthday in Ilocano culture – and people line up to give her more bouquets. I watch Imee shake hands and pose for photographs with a long queue of people – polite, professional, her smile only intermittently falling. It strikes me what an impressive show the Marcoses are putting on for this grubby little provincial town and how tiring it must be being a politician. And then I recall something Imee said in our interview.

“Your brother [Bongbong] says that politics is the national sport here,” I’d remarked to her.

“It’s not very sporting, though,” she had replied. “No fair play, no rules, very movable goal posts. Not quite right as a sport. It is better as something else. Vaudeville, maybe?”

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This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/a-dynasty-on-steroids-20121119-29kwy.html

Rural Banking a missed opportunity for foreign investment

As an ex-banker and now someone who is specialising on promoting foreign investments to the Philippines, the opportunity for foreign investors to invest in rural banks is a missed opportunity to help in the country’s  development. Unlike the other type of banks  (universal, commercial and thrift banks) which are bigger in size, rural banks are the financial institutions in the countryside where majority of the people live and bulk of the economic activity (agriculture) is based. Most rural banks are a one branch institution usually owned by a family who is a member of the local community and doesn’t need a credit bureau check to know each of its client. Unfortunately, the same advantage is also a handicap as its growth is limited to the amount capital given by the owning family. Foreign investment could have been another option but is not possible due to law. Still, there may be other options available to address their needs in a creative way. Watch this space.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

November 21, 2012

SPRB Plus deals under way

TWO deals are in the works under the Strengthening Program for Rural Banks Plus (SPRB Plus), and more are expected with the expanded set of perks available to white knights.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is already processing the two deals, BSP Managing Director Chuchi G. Fonacier said at the sidelines of a Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines symposium on Tuesday.

She did not name the participating banks but said “they are big banks acquiring rural banks.”

SPRB Plus was launched in August to encourage mergers and consolidations in the rural and thrift banking industry. White knights can receive a host of incentives when they rescue ailing banks, ranging from financial assistance from the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) or regulatory relief from the BSP. The program runs until December 2013.

The first SPRB was launched in 2010 and expired in August. Six deals involving 12 rural banks were approved, and two banks are set to receive financial assistance within the year, said PDIC Vice President Josefina J. Velilla during the same event.

The BSP and PDIC expect greater success from the enhanced SPRB compared to the original program.

“We expect a bigger turnout of applications and, hopefully, approvals.

SPRB Plus is open to more investors and it also offers branching incentives, which could be important to white knights,” Ms. Velilla said.

Universal, commercial and thrift banks, as well as non-bank corporations and groups of companies, are “eligible strategic third party investors” in ailing rural and thrift banks under SPRB Plus. The previous program allowed only rural banks to rescue fellow rural banks.

Rural and thrift banks may merge or consolidate with or purchase the assets and assume the liabilities of weak rural and thrift banks, while universal and commercial banks and non-banks may acquire a controlling stake in ailing banks.

Approved deals are eligible not just for financial assistance, which are in the form of preferred shares and direct loans, but also branching incentives.

Special branch licensing fees will be waived by the BSP, equivalent to the amount of capital contributed by white knights. Thrift banks pay P15 million, and universal and commercial banks, P20 million, to be able to establish a branch in so-called “restricted” areas in Metro Manila.

Furthermore, depending on how much branch licensing fees are waived, thrift, universal and commercial banks may establish branches in restricted areas for free.

They are also entitled to an extra incentive in the form of an additional branch license in restricted areas for free.

Rural banks can establish branches outside Metro Manila equivalent to the number of branches of the acquired bank or banks. Branch processing fees and capital requirements will be waived. In addition, they will be entitled to a branch license for every three banks rescued.

“Rural banks, since they are mostly family-owned, tend to be reluctant to sell, but SPRB Plus has opened up their options. With these incentives, now may be the right time to sell,” Ms. Fonacier said.

“Supposing SPRB Plus does not spur more deals than SPRB, it will get more in terms of the worth of the deals,” she added.

Rural banks shared the optimism of regulators, even as they identified stumbling blocks with SPRB Plus.

“Branching incentives will be the clincher, especially for big banks that want to establish their presence outside Metro Manila. Rural banks dominate the provinces, but the playing field is getting more even now,” said Lillian S. Vergara, Rural Bank of Mexico, Inc. general manager.

Issues remain, though, especially in the negotiations between white knights and rural banks.

“Many owners still take long to decide whether they want to let go of their rural banks,” said Teresa M. Ganzon, Bangko Kabayan, Inc. managing director.

Moreover, white knights are confronted with a “wide range of values” when ailing banks name their selling price.

“Sometimes, the selling prices are based on sentiment and not financial logic. Even when their net worth is negative, they still expect white knights to shell out money for them,” Ms. Ganzon said.

The strict documentary requirements — including lists of officers and qualifications, financial statements and business plans — could also weigh heavily on applicants, she added.

The BSP and PDIC will undertake a roadshow for SPRB Plus next week to capitalize on growing interest in the program in other regions.

Officials will visit Cebu on Monday to meet with banks in the Visayas, while a trip will be made to Davao next month to meet with those in Mindanao.

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Finance&title=SPRB Plus deals under way&id=61786

Unique features of Australian start-ups

While Aussie start-ups raise much less than Americans, we have some unique features we can be proud off. 85% don’t want to get rich doing it and 45% want to do it to change the world. Unfortunately, only 4.8% think of making their start-up in a global scale.

From StartupSmart.com

US start-ups raise five times more capital than Aussies: Report

By Michelle Hammond
Thursday, 22 November 2012

US-based companies raise almost five times more capital than Australian companies in the early stages, according to a new report, which also shows that Sydney remains our largest start-up hub.

The report, titled Silicon Beach: A study of the Australian Startup Ecosystem, was co-authored by the Startup Genome Project, Pollenizer, From Little Things and Deloitte Private.

It compared more than 1,000 Australian tech start-ups with more than 50,000 early stage companies being tracked worldwide.

The research identifies four main start-up hubs in Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Sydney is home to the greatest number of tech start-ups – 1.5 times more than Melbourne, six times more than Brisbane and eight times more than Perth.

According to Deloitte Private partner Joshua Tanchel, Sydney is “without a doubt” the country’s largest start-up ecosystem.

“We’re seeing some good companies come out of Melbourne and the other capital cities,” Tanchel says.

“But Sydney demonstrates the most established network of start-up founders, investors, and accelerators and incubators.”

While Sydney is the standout in Australia, it pales in comparison to Silicon Valley, which has a start-up ecosystem almost seven times the size of Sydney’s.

According to the research, Sydney entrepreneurs are 86% less likely to want to get rich and 45% less likely to want to change the world than entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Looking at Australia overall, only 4.8% of Australian start-ups are scaling into sustainable, global businesses.

This could be due to a lack of funding. The research shows US companies raise 4.8 times more capital in the early stages than Australian companies.

When Australian companies are ready to scale their operations, they’re once again outshined by their US counterparts, which raise 100 times more capital.

The findings form part of the Startup Ecosystem Index, a wider initiative by Startup Genome, which has identified the world’s top 20 start-up ecosystems.

The index is based on data from more than 50,000 startups around the world.

According to the index, the world’s top 10 ecosystems are Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City, Boston, London, Toronto, Vancouver and Chicago.

Sydney takes out the 12th spot while Melbourne is ranked 18th. Here’s why:

Sydney

  • Sydney entrepreneurs are as highly educated as Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (37% have a Masters and PhD versus 42%).
  • Entrepreneurs in Sydney have a similar amount of mentors per start-up as Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
  • Sydney entrepreneurs work 9.17 hours per day, which is almost as many as in Silicon Valley (9.95 hours).
  • Sydney start-ups outsource as much product development as their peers in Silicon Valley, with less than 6% of product development being outsourced.
  • Founders in Sydney are as likely as entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley to tackle markets they have had previous experience in (50%).

Melbourne

  • Melbourne start-ups are 42% more data-driven than Silicon Valley start-ups.
  • Entrepreneurs in Melbourne work 9.8 hours per day, which is almost as many as in Silicon Valley.
  • There are similar levels of support for start-ups in Melbourne as in Silicon Valley.
  • Melbourne entrepreneurs are less educated than entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley (22% have a Masters and PhD versus 42%).
  • Funding for start-ups in Melbourne is insufficient before and after product market fit. Melbourne start-ups receive 86% less funding than Silicon Valley start-ups.

A market opportunity to assist Rural Banks for their ROPA

 

Here’s a market opportunity to assist Rural Banks to address the disposition their acquired assets.  Watch this space.

 

From BusinessWorld Philippines

November 20, 2012

Rural banks urged to unload ROPA

THE BANGKO Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has urged banks to dispose of their foreclosed assets in order to boost their capitalization.

“Real and other properties acquired (ROPA) should be liquidated in a period of five years, as required by the central bank. But there are still so many banks that hold on to their ROPA even if they already have liquidity problems,” Chuchi G. Fonacier, BSP managing director for supervision and examination, said at the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) symposium yesterday.

She explained that banks preferred to be penalized by the BSP instead of sell their foreclosed assets as they wait for these properties’ prices to rise.

“We see during examinations, that there are some banks that cannot even serve deposits anymore, their capital is deficient, and yet they still cannot let go of their ROPA,” Ms. Fonacier said.

While it is a business decision on the part of banks to make the most out of their foreclosed assets, she stressed that banks are not in the business of managing property.

Capital adequacy should still be the primary concern, she added.

Liquidating these assets can inject much-needed capital to help banks comply with the 10% capital adequacy ratio.

The issue was raised during the RBAP symposium yesterday as some rural banks complained the BSP doesn’t teach them how to sell or market their foreclosed assets. They claimed that, had they known they had to sell their ROPA, some banks wouldn’t even have to be shuttered since they would have made money from the sales.

BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. rebuffed these allegations, though, pointing out that this is banks’ responsibility.

“That’s part of what they need to know as bankers. If they don’t know, they should obtain the knowledge from appropriate experts or hire one,” Mr. Espenilla said in a text message yesterday.

He urged banks to dispose of their ROPA within the five-year timeframe required by the BSP because the assets are illiquid and unproductive. Moreover, they weigh on banks since they are required to set aside cover for their ROPA.

“The risk weight of ROPA is 150% versus the normal [risk weight] of 100%. That’s a strong enough incentive to get rid of ROPAs as soon as possible,” Mr. Espenilla said.

As of the first quarter, rural banks held P8.938 billion worth of foreclosed assets, 10.89% higher than the level the year before. Their allowance for ROPA totaled P726 million, climbing 9.19% from last year.

The ROPA of rural banks comprised 5.06% of their gross assets as of the first quarter.

In comparison, universal and commercial banks held P92.174 billion in foreclosed assets in the same period, only 1.42% of their gross assets of P6.499 trillion. — Diane Claire J. Jiao

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Finance&title=Rural banks urged to unload ROPA&id=61716

Picking the best from Australia for Ireland’s enterprise creation

Wow. Ireland in its attempt to spur new enterprises and jobs takes a unique approach of offering start-ups in Australia, US, UK and Canada to move to their country. Unique idea.

 

From StartUpSmart

Have a craic at this: Ireland offers launch pad for Aussie start-up

Wednesday, 21 November 2012 08:32
Michelle Hammond

The Irish Government is offering an Australian start-up the chance to participate in prestigious incubator program LaunchPad, after launching a venture capital fund for offshore companies.

In a bid to lure innovative companies to Ireland, the Irish Government is offering one Australian start-up the chance to win a place at LaunchPad, regarded as one of Europe’s top incubators.

The Australia-wide competition, which is open to all start-ups and entrepreneurs, will have a strong focus on the technology and life sciences sectors.

LaunchPad, which is based in Dublin, provides pre-seed investment and hands-on mentoring.

In addition, the successful start-up will be offered office space for up to two people at the Guinness Enterprise Centre, Ireland’s largest start-up incubator centre.

Ireland has become the unlikely location of choice for start-ups seeking to target the US and European markets, with an ecosystem that includes Google, Facebook, Zynga and LinkedIn.

One of the reasons for this is Ireland’s enviable tax rate (12.5%). As a result, it’s estimated that running a company in Ireland is at least 30% cheaper than running a company in Australia.

Individuals and companies who are interested in the competition can register to participate in a series of free webinars hosted by Ireland’s start-up agency Enterprise Ireland.

The webinars, which feature entrepreneurs who have successfully founded companies in Ireland, kick off today and run until Thursday. The closing date for competition entries is December 10.

The news comes on the back of a separate announcement by the Irish Government, which has launched a $12.3 million venture capital fund for offshore companies willing to relocate.

The fund is aimed at companies in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

“We want to give Australian start-ups an alternative to Silicon Valley,” Paul Burfield, the Sydney-based director of Enterprise Ireland, told The Australian Financial Review.

Ireland also benefits from the arrangement. Investments made by Enterprise Ireland, which takes a maximum 10% stake in any venture, returned €150 million ($A185m) to the country last year.

Start-ups looking to take advantage of the fund are required to create 10 jobs and achieve one million euros in sales within four years.

This isn’t the Irish Government’s first attempt to boost employment. Earlier this year, it launched the Immigrant Investor Program and the Start-up Entrepreneur Program.

The first program requires applicants to invest between €400,000 ($A493.5m) and €2 million ($A2.46m) , depending on the level and duration of financial commitment.

The second program aims to foster new enterprises, for which the applicant has to have financial backing of no less than €70,000.

Approved participants and their immediate family are allowed to enter Ireland on multi-entry visas and remain there for two years.

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.

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