Saturday, 31 January 2009

Philippine tollway firm, state railway company planning to link North and South expressways

K.J.R. Liu
BusinessWorld Online

Pangilinan-led tollway operator First Philippine Infrastructure Inc. and state-owned Philippine National Railways (PNR) are set to study the possibility of linking the North and South Luzon expressways by road and rail.

The link will be an integrated rail and tollway project, using the PNR’s right of way, which cuts across Metro Manila.

The project is an alternative to various plans to link the two tollways.

The government is planning to build a flyover that will connect C-5 Road to Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, so that vehicles from the South Luzon Expressway don’t have to deal with traffic on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue to get to the North Luzon Expressway. It will cost P420 million.

Another plan, worth P55 billion, is to extend the Skyway from Parañaque to Balintawak in Quezon City.

First Philippine Infrastructure and the PNR signed the deal "to explore mutually beneficial transportation infrastructure investment opportunities," the former told the stock exchange in a disclosure yesterday.

Under the memorandum of understanding, the two will conduct a pre-feasibility study.

Initial discussions are focused on the development of an 18-kilometer integrated rail and tollway project that will have "at-grade" and elevated roads over the existing PNR line.

"PNR as a pioneer government provider of rail services, intends to pursue related infrastructure projects with the view of expanding the scope of the national integrated transport system," said PNR Vice-Chairman and General Manager Manuel D. Andal.

Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan entered the tollway business last year when his holding firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. bought First Philippine Infrastructure from the Lopez family for more than P12 billion. This gave Metro Pacific two-thirds of the North Luzon tollway concessionare, Manila North Tollways Corp.

Metro Pacific also has investments in hospitals, real estate, and a water utility.

By Chino S. Leyco Reporter
The Manila Times

FIRST Philippine Infrastructure Inc. and state-owned Philippine National Railways are exploring mutually beneficial transportation infrastructure investment opportunities.

In disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, PNR and First Infrastructure agreed to jointly conduct a pre-feasibility study for an alternative facility that will connect the North and South Luzon Expressways by way of an integrated rail and tollway project.

This will use the existing PNR line right-of-way that cuts across Metro Manila.

“We look forward to an opportunity of providing PNR our commercial and technical experience for the improvement and efficiency of the country’s infrastructure system,” Manuel Pangilinan, chairmaan of both First Infrastructure and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) said.

First Infrastructure said initial discussions are focused on the development of an approximately 18 kilometer integrated rail and tollroad project that will have a combined at-grade and elevated roadways over the existing PNR line right-of-way in Metro Manila.

“The Manila North Tollways Corp. and the Tollways Management Corp. under [First Infrastructure] have very well managed and maintained the North Luzon Expressway as a major national tollroad concession development. Our know-how and operating systems will support the PNR in its projects,” Ramoncito Fernandez, First Infrastructure president and chief executive said.

Pangilinan said the possible venture with PNR is part of MPIC’s thrust into infrastructure to help ease the congestion in the Greater Metro Manila transportation network.

Last year, First Infrastructure surprised the market when it announced that its major shareholders, First Philippine Holdings Corp. and Benpres Holdings Corp. both of the Lopez group, have decided to sell their respective stakes in the toll road business to MPIC.

Industry insiders said this latest share-swap is in line with MPIC’s condition to the Lopezes before the sale to complete the capitalization of First Infrastructure.

MPIC acquired the two Lopez companies’ First Infrastructure stakes for P12.2 billion, or P2.467 per share. This is lower than the company’s close during that day of P7.50 a piece.

The offer will represent a 99.84-percent ownership in First Infrastructure. First Holdings and Benpres each had a 51-percent and a 49-percent interest, respectively, in First Infrastructure, formerly City Resources Corp. The remaining 0.16-percent stake is publicly held.

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