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Henry Sy buys 60% of National University

August 18, 2008 3:59am
MANILA, Philippines - Mall magnate Henry Sy, Sr. has joined the bandwagon of taipans who have acquired private universities, recently gaining control of the 108-year-old National University (NU) in Sampaloc, Manila.

SM Investments Corp. President Harley T. Sy told reporters last week that the Sy family bought a 60% stake in the country’s first private non-sectarian school last June from the family of the late founder, Mariano F. Jhocson.

The younger Sy however did not disclose how much the transaction was worth, saying only it was purely the Sy family’s decision and did not involve any of the company’s diverse units.

But he said the Sy family has a lot of plans for the school, and wants to make it one of the country’s top universities.

Mr. Sy said the plans include a new eight-story building inside the university campus and the renovation of some old buildings.

The new building is expected to rise in a 13,000-square-meter lot, housing new classrooms; laboratories, and a multi-purpose gymnasium on top, which could hold up to 1,200 people.

Aside from the new building, which is due for construction later this month, the Sy family plans to add 16 more laboratories and expand the existing ones, increase the number of classrooms to 80, attract new faculty members, and make NU more active in sports, a source said.

"We are hoping [to] make it survive for the next twenty years. NU was based on the foundation [of] providing lower-cost [but] quality education [to students] compared to [the] other schools," he said.

The Sys plan to focus on courses like Nursing, Hotel and Restaurant Management, and Pharmacy because of the "increasing demand in these courses."

The Sy family reportedly wants to "overhaul" the small university and has been pirating professors from the country’s top four universities — Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines-Diliman, and the University of Santo Tomas.

As of the moment, the source said the family has no plans to increase the school’s tuition next year despite the construction of the building and new facilities to be finished by May next year.

He nevertheless said that with the new facilities, the family expects NU’s enrollees, which has gone down significantly over the years, to double next year.

"We hope to make the school competitive again," the source said.

NU opened in Aug. 1, 1900 as Colegio Filipino and was later renamed Colegio Mercantil with the introduction of business and accounting courses. It became the National Academy in 1916 and was renamed National University in 1921. The university offers courses like architecture, commerce, dentistry, education, engineering, computer science, entrepreneurship, liberal arts, nursing, and pharmacy.

NU also has a graduate school and offers elementary and high school education.

Mr. Sy said the acquisition of NU is part of the family’s "socio-civic role" in society, noting that the family wants to sponsor yearly at least a hundred scholars who can study in the school of their choice.

The mall taipan through SM Foundation has sent hundreds of students to college. To date, 630 scholars have graduated from the SM College Scholarship Program, which maintains 400 scholars at any given time.

Aside from NU, the Sys, through Sysmart Corp., hold a minority stake in the publicly listed Far Eastern University, which is controlled by the Montinola family.

Other taipans already have education as part of their portfolios.

Manila Bulletin and Manila Hotel owner Emilio T. Yap serves as chairman of Centro Escolar University, which is also listed in the stock exchange.

Tobacco and airline magnate Lucio C. Tan owns the University of the East, while Alfonso T. Yuchengco controls the Mapua Institute of Technology. The Phinma Group of Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr. bought Araullo University in 2004. - BusinessWorld

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HP wants to expand Davao market; to seek new distributors

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Hewlett Packard (HP) Philippines is expanding its presence here by bringing in "the widest portfolio of products available" in the next few months.

Bernadette L. Nacario, general manager of Personal Systems Group, said the company will embark on aggressive marketing and increase local partners and resellers from the current list of only five.

Not too many people in Davao, she said, know that HP has a service center in the city, which is an indication of its market reach. "We have very limited engagement here but we intend it to be like Manila or Cebu," she said.

Ms. Nacario said setting up an office in Davao City was still on the drawing table. "We don’t have an exact value in terms of investment but we want to help in building an information technology (IT) infrastructure here," she said.

Last week, the company launched Davao City as the first "HP City" to be followed by Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Bacolod and some cities in Luzon.

"Apart from being one of our most important markets, Davao City also represents the future of IT (information technology) in the Philippines," she said.

Part of the campaign is to tie up with the local businessmen and other groups to develop the city as an IT hub.

Local groups have complained of the lack of infrastructure in Davao City to support the influx of business process outsourcing firms.

The Davao Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in one of its resolutions, had urged the local government to promote the city as IT hub through a comprehensive master plan.

The city council is looking to amend the 1994 Davao City Investment Incentive Code but some lawmakers have balked at the proposal to double incentives to locators outside the central business districts for fear of facing a class suit over discriminatory treatment.

Paul M. Alcantara, marketing manager of the Personal Systems Group, said the company is studying the possibility of adding to the list of vendors in the city from the present five, namely Digital Enterprises, Computer World, Emcor Appliance Center, Colombia Computers, and Digitech. "[W]e intend to expand that (list)," he said.

Mr. Alcantara said Davao City remains to be a "white box" market with 80% of consumers preferring generic computers and laptops over branded ones offered by HP, Dell, and Apple because of the price difference

But more than the price package, Grace H. San Juan, the company’s lead officer for the offshoring and outsourcing industry, said HP wants to offer value-added services to entice consumers to buy into the brand. "Beyond the price of the box, we have a very good advantage over our competitors," she said. - BusinessWorld

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State’s Misamis Oriental industrial zone vows to clear site for Hanjin

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — The Philippine Veterans Investment Development Corp. (Phividec) Industrial Authority is determined to clear industrial areas in the towns of Tagoloan and Villanueva to give way for the return of South Korean industrial giant Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Ltd. next month.

The $2-billion shipyard project, which will cover 441.8 hectares, was supposed to start early this year after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Hanjin and Phividec officials, witnessed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in January. Project activities, however, were suspended in May due to problems with local government executives hosting the proposed shipyard.

"We extended the memorandum, which will expire on Sept. 10," said Phividec administrator Nimfa Along-Albania last week.

The agreement was originally good only until last week, Aug. 10. "[The extension will] to allow us to move more than 800 families to the relocation site," noted Ms. Albania.

Hanjin officials, who have declined interviews with the media amid several controversies the company had figured in, have yet to issue an official statement on their plans to resume operation in Misamis Oriental.

But Ms. Albania said she was in constant communication with Hanjin officials with respect to resuming operations at the state-run Phividec industrial estate.

Various concerns and issues had resulted in the suspension of Hanjin’s initial work for its shipyard project.

These included the relocation of residents in the area and problems with local government units of two towns, including allegations that an executive of the Korean firm had tried to bribe town officials on quarrying activities that would supply gravel needed at the project site.

Local government officials, however, said they had realized there was no bribe offer and that there was only a misunderstanding during a dialogue involving supply of gravel from the two towns.

"There were communication gaps and we only need regular communication to address the concerns and issues," Ms. Albania told BusinessWorld.

She said trainings were ongoing for the residents who would likely be hired for the project. Ms. Albania noted that from only 30, the number of trainees has increased to about 100 with some now temporarily employed at Hanjin’s shipyard complex in Subic, Zambales.

During a public consultation early this year, Eduardo Rubic, Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp.’s local project coordinator, assured residents of the towns of Villanueva and Tagoloan that they would get top priority in hiring workers for the project as long as they have the skills.

"The [locals] found out that more jobs are available; there are many job opportunities opening for the residents," said Ms. Albania, noting that the agency was coordinating with the local and provincial government units in developing the relocation site.

An elementary school is being constructed at the new communities being put up for those who would be relocated.

Ms. Albania said that whatever plans Hanjin has, her agency is expecting to sign the lease agreement with the Korean firm by September.

"I will have a meeting with Hanjin officials next week to discuss how things are and to update them that the site is cleared for them to come in and we’ll discuss what our next steps are," said Ms. Albania. - BusinessWorld