In yet another last-ditch attempt to save PhilWeb from the wrath of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Roberto Ongpin has decided to donate the bulk of his stake to the government.
Last week, the embattled former chairman of the gaming technology provider announced that he would auction off his 771.75 million PhilWeb shares, which represent a 53.76 percent stake in the company, after the government refused to renew PhilWeb’s license. By noon of Aug. 17, Ongpin has received five bids for the company.
But the businessman has decided reject the bids. Instead, Ongpin said he will donate or sell for PHP1 (USD0.022) 49 percent of his shares to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
“Why 49 percent? This is simply to avoid PhilWeb being classified as a government owned and controlled corporation (GOCC), which would make the various restrictions applicable to GOCC’s result in making PhilWeb’s operations untenable,” Ongpin said in a letter addressed to PAGCOR Chairman Andrea Domingo.
Ongpin’s remaining 4.7 percent stake will go to a university scholarship fund that supports public elementary school graduates.
“I am of course assuming that if PAGCOR would own 49 percent of PhilWeb, it would renew the license to itself and thus, save the jobs and livelihood of about 6,000 employees and their families,” the businessman said.
The company, which operates a network of 268 PAGCOR e-Games cafes, estimates that about 700 PhilWeb employees plus about the 5,000 others who are employed by the state regulator operators in the e-Games sites.
In July, Duterte singled out Ongpin in his campaign against oligarchs who he claimed “are embedded in the government,” prompting the PhilWeb chairman to step down from his post and offer to auction off his stake.
“This has not been an easy decision for me to make, but I can only face reality. It is not easy to lose PHP20 billion of your net worth in two weeks time (the market capitalization of PhilWeb was about PHP40 billion before lightning struck, but it is clear I have no choice,” he said.
Ongpin pointed out that his donation comes with “no strings attached.”
“PAGCOR can decide whether to retain it as a permanent investment, or auction all or part of it off to the highest bidder (obviously with a renewed co-terminus license),” the businessman said.
Stocks of the Philippine Stock Exchange-listed PhilWeb dropped 13.33 percent to PHP6.50 (USD0.14) on Wednesday, with a market capitalization of PHP10.77 billion (USD232.21 million).