Lucio Tan group mum on PNB-BPI merger talks

Posted at 12/05/2012 10:23 AM | Updated as of 12/05/2012 10:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines - It's been two weeks since the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Philippine National Bank and Allied Bank said they were in talks to merge.

However, the Lucio Tan group remained mum on the matter on Monday evening.

Michael Tan, president of his father Lucio Tan's holding company LT Group, gamely answered reporters' questions about the impending increases in sin taxes, which would hit his family's Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco.

"The P55 billion we're paying, the three industries. They would add another P40 billion. You can do it in stages naman... They're saying excise tax as percentage of revenue is decreasing from 3% to 2% but of course, other industries have grown... In the US, I think excise tax on liquor, beer and cigarettes account for less than half a percent of US revenue intake. Tayo almost 3%, that's too much dependence on 3 industries," Tan said.

But Tan begged off from talking about discussions to sell his family's PNB and Allied Bank to the Ayala group's BPI.

Tan looked surprised when reporters asked him about the matter, saying he's not involved in PNB.

A merger would create the country's largest bank by assets, knocking off the bank of another tycoon: Henry Sy's BDO.

Jose Sio, chief financial officer of Sy-led SM Investments, said his group is just a spectator in the BPI-PNB-Allied Bank merger story, amid speculation they have made a counter-offer that has given the Tans second thoughts.

Sio said it's not size that's important but profitability.

"It's not important to be number 1 in resources... But we want to be number 1 in efficiency," he said.

That's a line that's been used by BPI, at least before BPI, the country's oldest bank, made this bid to regain the top spot.