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    Aboitiz Transport sale: hard
    decision after marking 100 yrs
     
    By Wilfredo Rodolfo III
    Reporter
     

    CEBU CITY—With the impending sale of Aboitiz Transport System (ATS) to a Kuwaiti group, one of the Philippines’ most colorful families will part with the business that started their empire.

    The Aboitiz family just celebrated the 101st year of Aboitiz Transport this year, a century after the family patriarch Don Ramon Aboitiz bought the fleet’s first ship, the Picket, in 1907 to transport abaca (manila hemp) from Cebu to Eastern Visayas.

    “I’ll be honest—we just celebrated 100 years for the company and it was a very hard decision,” Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) chief operating officer Erramon Aboitiz said shortly after the board accepted an offer from KGLI-NM Holdings Inc. (KGLI-NM).

    Besides selling the AEV shares in Aboitiz Transport, the Aboitiz family through holding firm Aboitiz and Co., is also selling all its stake in the shipping industry.

    Together with the purchase are eight SuperFerries and CebuFerries ships and two cargo ships in MCC Transport, the company’s two fast crafts under SuperCat and logistics giant 2GO.

    Aboitiz said the family is happy that the company it had built will be turned over to good hands.

    Despite rising fuel costs and stiff competition from low budget airlines, Aboitiz managed to streamline the operations of its fleet, increasing volume cargo vis-à-vis passengers, while investing in more fuel-efficient vessels.

    In the first half of 2008, however, the transport group posted a net income of P19 million, amid fuel prices and all—which was still modest despite a 94- percent decline from last year’s P284-million revenue.

    The consolidated revenues of the transport reached P6 billion in the first six months of the year, pushed by its freight services which amounted to P3.7 billion.

    Fuel costs, however, contributed to a 15-percent increase in the company’s total expenses.

    “We have a very serious buyer and we think they will be a very good candidate. We are leaving Aboitiz Transport in the good hands of a foreign investor who is serious about investing in the Philippines,” Aboitiz said on Tuesday, right after the announcement of the family’s decision to let go.

    He also said the Aboitiz Group will be fully committed in the transition to the new management, while assuring employees and management of ATS that their interests will be taken care of.

    The expected P5-billion proceeds from the deal, Aboitiz said, will be invested in other interests of the company including power and its banking arm Union Bank.

    “[Power] is an opportunity where we will be much involved in,” he said.

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