The true state of The Philippine STAR
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-02-03

My old friend Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel almost wrecked my chair last Thursday when he sent me a text message.

Nene’s text message read: “People need you to keep the feet of the powerful steadily on burning coals. I hope no changes will come with sale of the STAR to the (Manny V.) Pangilinan Group of Companies. God bless, Nene.”

Being one of the owners of The Philippine STAR, naturally that info about the sale took me by surprise. I thought somebody might have given Nene a cock and bull story and so I texted him back: “I heard there have been offers since four years ago. We don’t owe anything, are making good cash dividends and have no reason to sell.”

It turned out that Nene just picked up the STAR sale story from the front page of one of the English language dailies.

I then immediately contacted STAR president and CEO, Miguel G. Belmonte, for clarification. Miguel’s answer was clear: “Uncle Billy, there is no sale. There are only the usual offers and we have never initiated any of these discussions.”

Indeed, the STAR has been receiving offers since four years ago from interested parties even if the STAR has never offered the newspaper or its other publications for sale.

As later confirmed, PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telephone) CEO Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) has been negotiating to buy in via PLDT investment firm, MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. It’s not surprising that a company like The Philippine STAR will attract an offer from Manny Pangili-nan who could use a leading and very profitable newspaper as a prestigious showcase of his growing multimedia empire.

If consummated the STAR and MediaQuest deal will serve the growth directions of both firms. For the STAR, MediaQuest will provide expansion into multimedia — the new horizon. MediaQuest will then acquire a prestigious and highly profitable media leader.

Even when my dearest friend and STAR founding Chairman, Betty G. Belmonte, was still with us, STAR shareholders have been consistently receiving cash dividends. Over the last five years alone, STAR annual cash dividends to shareholders have doubled!

Just how many Philippine companies are there who paid double their annual cash dividends to shareholders for calendar years 2007 and 2006 compared to annual cash dividends paid in 2005 and earlier years? From all indications, STAR will again pay the same amount in annual cash dividends for the year 2008.

In the newspaper business, there are the usual breast beatings about being numero uno in circulation. Talk is cheap. The business bottom line is the real thing. Business bottom line reflects advertiser trust that the publication is widely read and credible.

Advertisers conduct their own media studies to determine which media are effectively reaching their target markets or consumers. In probing the minds of their consumers, advertisers will normally add media questions to gauge if the media they employ are delivering their message.

For the STAR to consistently lead in ad revenues is reaffirmation that the STAR delivers the advertising messages to their intended consumers — efficiently and effectively.

Other solid indicators about the true state of your Philippine STAR are the following verifiable facts.

1. The Philippine STAR has no debt. We don’t owe any bank or person any money.

2. The STAR printing company bought all its printing equipment with money up front, in CASH.

3. The Philippine STAR is easily the favorite of the suppliers of the publication trade. We offer advance payment for better prices.

4. The Philippine STAR is easily the biggest consumer (among publications) of newsprint, ink, printing plates and so forth — a sure sign of who really publishes the most number of copies.

5. The Philippine STAR employees get 18 months pay and this is guaranteed by the management and owners regardless if the publication makes a profit or not in a given year. Luckily for us, we have been consistently profitable. Maybe it is what the Bible promised — the return of generosity by a hundredfold.

6. The Philippine STAR employees also enjoy housing benefits. Over 400 families now live in STAR villages located in Canlubang, General Trias, Cavite and San Pedro, Laguna. These housing areas are serviced by STAR shuttle buses.

Two types of companies attract offers to buy in. The first type is the badly-managed company with a big unrealized potential. The other type is the well-managed company that’s facing a great horizon.

It’s easy to see that the STAR is not a corporate disaster zone that would be seeking a sale relief or capital infusion. On the contrary, the STAR is one of the few Philippine companies that are still managing to remain lucrative, profitable and cash rich.

Thanks to PAL

I wish to use this opportunity to thank Philippine Airlines (PAL), especially PAL Assistant Vice-President Marilou Mendoza, for ensuring that my wheelchair was there when I alighted from the PAL aircraft that brought me to and from Singapore and also for advising the PAL crew in my return flight to provide emergency oxygen if my asthma condition required it.

I was in the Lion City from January 17 to 26 to attend the wedding of a favorite niece.

The wedding reception was held in the Burkhill Hall of the Singapore Botanical Gardens which may be an ideal place for a wedding reception but not for asthma sufferers.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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