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No outstanding loans with gov't, says firm that owns ABS-CBN

Lopez Holdings Corp. on Thursday said it has no outstanding loans with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), following a tirade against the company by President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Lopez Holdings Corp. does not have any unpaid obligations to the Development Bank of the Philippines or other government financial institutions," it said in a statement posted on the company's news website.

On Wednesday, Duterte hit out at the company formerly known as Benpres over its supposed outstanding debt with the state-owned lender.

"I will not name the person, but 'yung mga company nila noon -- Benpres and about six other companies -- may utang sila sa DBP. At ang utang nila, umabot ng... to finance this... pera ng tao, gagamitin nila to finance their business pero kanila 'yung kita," he said.

Benpres — taken from the names Benito and Presentacion, parents of its late founder Eugenio H. Lopez — formally changed its name to Lopez Holdings Corp. in June 2010. The company owns major shareholdings in television network ABS-CBN and in the power, property, and telecommunications sectors.

ABS-CBN has been a frequent target of Duterte's rants, with the President threatening to block the franchise of ABS-CBN after accusing it of not airing his campaign ad in last year's elections.

According to a column by Neal H. Cruz published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) on November 7, 2011, loans granted and written off by the DBP to various corporations under the Lopez group amounted to P1.6 billion.

In response, Lopez Holdings Corp. President Salvador G. Tirona said that the write offs of the company's loans were not special favors.

"The headline of Cruz's column, 'DBP wrote off P1.6B in loans to Lopez group,' seems to give the impression that we were recipients of special favors from the DBP," he said in an opinion piece published in the PDI on November 8, 2011.

"The fact [is] DBP provided loans to Lopez Group companies only as part of consortia that included many other banks," he added.

In the said piece, Tirona also said Lopez Holdings did not receive any "behest" loans and that the company entered the loan agreement in good faith.

"Lopez Holdings and its operating units were never recipients of behest loans from any government financial institution," he said.

"All debts incurred were provided by institutions that had all the time and the opportunity to review our investment portfolio, and had the same opportunity to refuse us credit," he added.

Shares of the Lopez Holdings Corp. closed Thursday at P6.76 apiece, down by P0.44 or 6.11 percent from Wednesday's P7.20 per share. —JST, GMA News