San Miguel says not selling stake in liquor unit Ginebra

MANILA Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:34am EDT

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MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine conglomerate San Miguel Corp (SMC.PS) is not selling its controlling stake in liquor maker Ginebra San Miguel Inc (GSMI.PS), the group's president stated, after shares in both firms surged amid market talk about a Ginebra sale.

"Not selling," San Miguel President Ramon Ang told Reuters via a mobile phone text message on Wednesday when asked about the rumors of a Ginebra stake sale. Ang regularly uses text messages to answer questions.

Ginebra was up as much as 17.4 percent in early dealing, before paring its gains to 7.7 percent at the noon break in trading. Manila's benchmark index .PSI was flat.

San Miguel rose as much as 4.3 percent in early Wednesday trade before trimming its gains to 2.1 percent at noon break. The stock has surged around 25 percent in the last three trading days.

Ang also said via text message that San Miguel and its retirement fund were not buying back shares, amid separate market rumors that the jump in the conglomerate's shares were due to a company-initiated share buyback plan.

ATTRACTIVE VALUATION

Some analysts think San Miguel had fallen to levels that were attractive to bargain hunters. It is up 13 percent so far this year after falling around 40 percent for the entire 2013.

"San Miguel (shares) are attractive given relatively low valuations amid the recent uptrend of the main index," said Manny Cruz, market strategist at Asiasec Equities Inc in Manila. He said the company was expected to benefit from the economy's strong growth momentum given its exposure to the infrastructure and power sectors.

Analysts also said investors could be positioning ahead of San Miguel's 2013 earnings report due out next week.

San Miguel is expected to book gains from the sale of its stake in Manila Electric Co (MER.PS) last year to Philippine conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Inc (JGS.PS) for 72 billion pesos ($1.61 billion).

San Miguel might post 2013 net profit of 57 billion pesos, Ang said earlier this year, more than double the previous year's earnings.

San Miguel is sticking with a plan to offer to the public a portion of its stake in SMC Global Power Holdings Corp, and at the same time get a cornerstone investor for its power generation arm, Ang also told Reuters via text message.

SMC Global, the Philippines' biggest power producer, was earlier hoping to raise this year about $1 billion from the sale of a 49 percent stake.

San Miguel, which started as a brewery more than a century ago, has aggressively expanded over the last five years into power, airlines, mining, telecoms, oil refining and distribution, and infrastructure, while maintaining its status as the country's dominant food and beverage firm.

($1 = 44.69 Philippine Pesos)

(Additional reporting by Siegfrid Alegado; Writing by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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