By: Miguel R. Camus
Philippine Daily Inquirer

PROPERTY tycoon and former Senator Manuel Villar Jr. is combining his shopping mall business under flagship housing developer Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc. in a P33.5-billion transaction that will place it in a better position to compete with some of the biggest developers in the Philippines.

Villar, Vista Land chair, told reporters in a briefing yesterday that the move would make Vista Land the fourth-largest integrated property developer in the country, provide better fund-raising options and help it corner valuable joint-venture deals in this highly competitive space.

The transaction, disclosed to the Philippine Stock Exchange yesterday, involves Vista Land taking an 88.25-percent stake in Starmalls at P4.51 a share, a steep discount to its last closing price. Starmalls is controlled by the Fine Group, which is comprised of privately held companies of the Villar family.

Vista Land will then issue 4.6 billion new shares to the Fine Group at P7.15 a share, which is a 26-percent premium to the builder's share price before the deal was announced. Vista Land CEO Paolo Villar said it was the intention of the group to delist Starmalls from the PSE following a tender offer exercise.

Vista Land said yesterday that net income in the nine months through September hit P5 billion, up 18 percent, as revenues rose 10 percent to P18.5 billion. Sales also remained strong at P42.7 billion compared to last year's P38.7.