Lucio Tan retakes control of Philippine Airlines and PAL Express

Lucio Tan retakes control of Philippine Airlines and PAL Express

Philippine conglomerate LT Group took back control of the flag carrier in late Oct-2014, completing a deal to buy back the 50% stakes in PAL and PAL Express which LT initially sold to Philippine conglomerate San Miguel in Apr2012. LT had all along retained a majority stake but agreed to cede management control to San Miguel, resulting in the appointment of San Miguel president Ramon Ang as PAL president.

The original intent was for LT to later sell its remaining stakes in PAL and PAL Express to San Miguel and or a new strategic investor which San Miguel was aiming to secure. But LT and San Miguel could never agree on a deal for the remaining stake while attempts to find a new strategic Investor failed to bear fruit after talks with several foreign Airline groups including All Nippon Airways. There is still a possibility of a strategic stake sale materialising later.

In Sep 2014 LT offered to buy back San Miguel’s share of PAL and PAL Express, which was previously known as AirPhil Express. The deal was completed in late Oct 2014 and Jaimie Bautista was appointed PAL’s new president, replacing Mr Ang.

LT now again owns 100% of PAL Express and about 90% of PAL Holdings. Individual shareholders account for the remaining 11% in PAL Holdings, which is listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange and is the parent of Philippine Airlines but not PAL Express.

Mr Bautista had been the president of PAL for several years prior to exiting in 2012 when LT ceded management control to San Miguel. He advised LT on the deal to regain control and initially returned to PAL in Sep 2014 as general manager.

PAL also appointed on 23 Oct 2014 several new board directors to take the seats that had been controlled by San Miguel. Several new executives including a new CFO were also appointed, replacing executives that had been seconded by San Miguel to PAL.

Other executives that were brought in under San Miguel’s tenure but were contracted directly by PAL (rather than on secondments from San Miguel) have stayed. This includes former SpiceJet CEO Neil Mills, who joined PAL in 2013 as CEO advisor.

PAL to slow the pace of international expansion
The new executive team and board are now closely reviewing the previous business plan, which envisioned rapid growth of the fleet and international network. This review effectively began in Sep-2014 under Mr Bautista after San Miguel first agreed to sell back the stake to LT. Now that the deal is done and a new board is in place a new business plan can be prepared and implemented.

Under Mr Ang’s tenure, PAL added several medium/long-haul destinations and was planning to further expand the network in Europe and North America. PAL Holdings reported a 51% increase in passenger revenues in 2Q2014, driven mainly by the expansion of the international network. Monthly international passenger numbers were up between 15% and 39% the first seven months of 2014.

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Mohini Porwal [ B Sc]
Trainee News Editor
Philipines Aviation News Editor