PHILIPPINES: Cojuangco rejects deal on SMC shares

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The chairman of Philippines food and drinks group San Miguel Corp. (SMC), Eduardo Cojuangco, has rejected a compromise deal with the government over the disputed ownership of the company.

Cojuangco's lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, who is also a director of SMC, said that Cojuangco wants the long-running dispute to be settled in court.

The dispute over ownership of San Miguel, the largest food and drinks group in the Philippines, goes back to 1987 when the government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG),  took control of Cojuangco's shares and those of groups he represents, alleging that they had been bought using funds designated for the development of the coconut industry. The disputed stakes represent nearly half of the equity in SMC.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government suggested last week that a compromise might be reached to resolve the dispute without it going to court. But Mendoza told Dow Jones: "It is no longer time to talk of a compromise. None of (Cojuangco's) San Miguel stocks were acquired with coconut levy funds. With the sequestration by the PCGG of nearly all the properties of Mr. Cojuangco, the delay amounted to an illegal taking of property without any compensation."

Cojuangco claims his personal stake in SMC is 19%, plus the 27% which is now in the hands of the PCGG. However, the government disputes ownership of both stakes.

Sectors: Spirits

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