News Article

Ongpin eyes partner from Abu Dhabi

11/17/2013 | By: Zinnia B. Dela Peña, The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A senior member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi is reportedly interested in investing in billionaire businessman Roberto V. Ongpin’s property concern, Alphaland Corp., according to market rumors.

The market is abuzz with speculation that Sheik Surroor Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, developer of the luxurious Etihad Towers and Abu Dhabi Trade Center, may buy out the stake of Ashmore Group Plc. in Alphaland following reports of strained ties between Ongpin and the UK-based investment fund.

Sources said Ongpin and Suroor are very good friends.

The same sources said Ongpin went to Abu Dhabi last month in the hope of finding a new investor that would acquire Ashmore’s 40 percent stake in Alphaland. He reportedly stayed at the iconic Etihad Towers.

Sheikh Suroor’s partner, Hussain Al Nowais, Minister for Public Development for Abu Dhabi, likewise visited the Philippines last month to look at the various projects of Alphaland, including the 500-hectare upscale resort Balesin located in Quezon province.

Sheikh Surroor completed his first major mixed-use development, Abu Dhabi Trade Center in 2000. He later built Etihad Towers as part of his commitment to change the Abu Dhabi skyline and create a welcoming environment for people to work, live, stay and dine.

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His new projects include the expansion of the Abu Trade Center as well as a new 250 key boutique hotel on Sa’adiyat Island, which has one of the most impressive beachfronts in the Emirate.

The Al Nahayans have been the rulers of Abu Dhabi since 1793. They are believed to have a fortune of $150 billion collectively as a family.

Ongpin has been looking for a new investor group to come in to support Alphaland’s projects after Ashmore made it clear that it was no longer keen on investing more funds in the property company.

The Ashmore Group reportedly did not agree with some actions of Alphaland’s board of directors and even tried to boot Ongpin out of the company by offering a $50 million loan to the property firm.

Aside from its flagship island project, Balesin, Alphaland’s other projects include the P2-billion Alphaland Marina Club, the 32-hectare Bay City development both along Manila Bay, and the Alphaland City Club located in the Makati central business district.

Ongpin, a former trade minister, was instrumental in orchestrating the deal that allowed the Ashmore Group to buy Saudi Aramco’s 40-percent stake in the country’s largest oil refiner Petron Corp. for $550 million in March 2008.