On Joseph Chua – wait, there’s more

Indeed, there’s more.

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After Joseph Chua broke his silence last week and his story came out in my Dec. 20 column, I received reactions from readers – some from his friends and foes, former employees from the Tan Group, tycoons, strangers and kibitzers.

It wasn’t exactly surprising, but some comments such as those concerning the Guam business of Chua’s father-in-law, taipan Lucio Tan, were telling.

I’ve been told, for instance, that some employees from the Guam business have resigned after Chua’s departure.

One of the readers, a friend of mine, said she has personal knowledge of this because her family friend was among those who resigned.

I told Chua about this.

“I corroborate the many resignations and early retirements. Old time employees, managers, and supervisors were pressured to resign or retire early or outright terminated,” he told me.

He also expressed sadness and surprise about his and his wife Rowena’s sudden removal from the Guam business without due process despite their accomplishments in growing the company. Rowena is Tan’s eldest daughter. Chua served as former president of Tan’s Guam business Goodwind Corp.

He also belied reports that he and his wife transferred Guam company shares to their children, as well as the permanent closure of the bakery as alleged by some quarters.

“In Guam, I was able to quadruple stockholders equity from 2001 to 2020 and in Macroasia, returned P8.92 billion in dividends and market value over the years from the initial investment of P700 million in 1996,” he said.

According to a 1997 article on the Wall Street Journal, Tan indeed bought a 70 percent stake in MacroAsia for P700 million. This was done through Philippine Airlines.

Chua, who likewise served as MacroAsia president, also said that it was he and the late Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr. who paved the way for the first public listing for the Tan Group, which was MacroAsia.

I researched about this and learned that MacroAsia, which Tan acquired from businessman Benjamin Bitanga – who happened to be a friend of Bong Tan – did a backdoor listing in 1995. It was formerly named Infanta Mineral & Industrial Corp.

Back to the Guam business, Chua noted that sadly, some quarters are even blocking the approved expansion of the Jollibee Drive-thru in Guam even if the cost is borne by Chua and his wife Rowena who own the Jollibee franchise in the US territory.

There were other reactions, ranging from the good, the bad, the ugly. Only time will tell what will happen next in the Tan business empire.

PAL wins court approval

Speaking of the Tan Group, its flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc. announced recently that the US Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York has approved its Plan of Reorganization.

“(The) court approval represents a critical moment in our journey to emerge as a stronger airline. We are thankful for our loyal customers, dedicated employees, and the support of our shareholders and partners, and government, which has enabled us to move efficiently through the process and reach this milestone,” said Gilbert Santa Maria, PAL president & COO, in a statement last Dec. 18.

PAL filed a voluntary petition on Sept. 3, 2021 for a prearranged restructuring under the US Chapter 11 process, and has received overwhelming creditor support throughout the process, the airline said.

“We have a few more procedural steps to take before we can complete the Chapter 11 process, after which we will focus intensely on serving the public, navigating the continuing challenges of the pandemic and economic recovery, and sustaining the links that connect our archipelago,” Santa Maria said.

The consensual plan was accepted by 100 percent of the votes cast, which were from PAL’s primary aircraft lessors and lenders, original equipment manufacturers and maintenance, repair, and overhaul service providers, and certain funded debt lenders.

The plan, which provides for over $2 billion in permanent balance sheet reductions from existing creditors, allows PAL to consensually contract fleet capacity by 25 percent and improves PAL’s critical operational agreements.

It also includes a $505 million investment in long-term equity and debt financing from PAL’s majority shareholder.

Following implementation of the plan, “PAL will be better positioned to capture travel demand and serve the needs of global citizens, actively contributing to the Philippine economy,” the airline said.

Inside stories

Salute to Santa Maria and his team and the thousands of PAL employees who stayed on despite PAL’s troubles. My heart also goes out to those whom the company had to let go because their sacrifices have helped keep PAL alive after years of management problems and financial woes.

The approval of PAL’s recovery plan was indeed a major milestone and quite a feat for the beleaguered airline because if inside stories are to be believed, during the entire process, there was a lot of disagreements among some shareholders and management; of skyrocketing stress and blood-pressure levels; of threats of resignations in the board that were averted; and angsts from many disgruntled employees.

But here is PAL today, still breathing and in the process of making it through a dark, arduous night.

 

 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com.



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