MANILA, Philippines – Former trade minister Roberto V. Ongpin confirmed on Friday that an acquisition of listed miner Omico Corp. is among several options currently being explored by his group.

Also clarifying a disclosure made by Omico last week, Ongpin said his group’s recently acquired mining firm Atok-Big Wedge Co. Inc. is the vehicle that is currently “looking” at Omico’s mineral assets.

Ongpin’s listed real-estate developer Alphaland Corp., which joined the local exchange via a backdoor listing last year, is only interested in a Makati property partly owned by Omico, it was clarified.

“There are two things about Omico that look interesting to us. Omico is a mining company but it is also a property-development company,” Ongpin told reporters following the shareholders’ meeting of Alphaland last week.

Atok vice chairman Eric Recto clarified that there is “absolutely no” deal between Atok, Alphaland and Omico at this point.

Asked whether the group was looking to acquire a majority stake in Atok, Recto said this is one option among “a number of possibilities, none of which have been decided.” This, after the Ongpin group exited gold-copper producer Philex Mining Corp. in December last year.

Omico’s primary mining asset is an 873-hectare inactive gold project in Itogon, Benguet, held with partner Macawiwili Gold Mining and Development Co. Omico is also part owner of a property at the corner of Edsa and Pasong Tamo Extension in Makati, across the Alphaland Southgate tower and mall.

First-quarter revenues of Omico amounted to P10.12 million, the bulk of which came from real-estate sales from residential projects in Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija and in Tagaytay City.

Recto added that the group is just beginning the “revival” of presence in the mining and oil-exploration sector after selling the Philex stake to Pangilinan-led First Pacific Co. Ltd. The sale of the 9.2% stake, along with other shareholders of Philex, was worth P9.49 billion.

Ongpin said Atok now has P1 billion in cash, adding that the company is looking at about seven mining areas being offered, including projects in Cambodia.

Recto said the company’s oil and gas exploration activities will be spun off into a newly established company called Tidemark Energy Corp. The group had previously intended to use Atok as its vehicle for oil and gas exploration.

Based on documents submitted to the corporate regulator, Tidemark Energy has an initial authorized capital of P1 billion. “We will infuse additional cash to buy oil [and gas] assets as they come possibly within this year,” Recto said.

Expansion plans of Atok and Alphaland may be aided by additional share sales to the public, Ongpin said.

“We want to have a much larger public float than what we have right now,” he noted.
Based on data from the Philippine Stock Exchange, the respective public floats of Atok and Alphaland amount to 7.8% and 5%, both below the 10% required by the bourse.
Ongpin said he can also raise funds through British investment firm Ashmore Group, which is his partner for both companies.

Source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/05/31/10/atok-big-wedge-keen-omico