First Pacific sets fund-raising for expansion

FIRST Pacific Co. Ltd. is shoring up its war chest for new investments in mining and infrastructure in the Philippines and across Southeast Asia. In a statement, Hong Kong-based conglomerate that controls Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) said it is raising $282 million by way of a rights issue, involving 643 million and not more than 672 million shares at a subscription price of HK$3.40 per share.

The conglomerate has an undertaking arrangement with the controlling shareholder to subscribe in full to the shares for about 44.2 percent.

First Pacific has entered into an underwriting agreement with the joint underwriters Cazenove Asia, Credit Suisse and HSBC to fully underwrite the shares to be allotted to shareholders other than the controlling interest.

Manuel Pangilinan, First Pacific managing director and chief executive, said the rights issue will strengthen its capital structure and provide the company with substantial financial resources to grow the group's businesses without diluting the existing shareholders' interest.

"We intend to apply the net proceeds in pursuit of First Pacific Group's investment strategies in mining in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia and, if suitable opportunities arise, in infrastructure assets in the Philippines," he said.

Besides PLDT, First Pacific controls Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC) and owns 22 percent of Philex Mining Corp., which operates the Padcal mine in Benguet.

Pangilinan had said that First Pacific plans to raise its stake in the country's largest mine operator.

Before raising its interest in the mining firm, the Hong Kong company would require the approval of other major stakeholders, such as state-run Social Security Service, the Ongpin group, and Philex chairman, Walter Brown.

Pangilinan also said that First Pacific is planning to invest in Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. or in Manila Mining Corp.

Manila Mining Corp. operates the gold and copper mine in Surigao del Norte, while Lepanto runs the Victoria and Teresa gold deposits in Mankayan, Benguet. (Manila Times)

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