Manila, June 27, 2003 By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes (Star) Associated Broadcasting Co. (ABC-5) owner Edward Tan has agreed to sell the entire ownership of his television network to a group led by businessman Antonio "Tonyboy" Cojuangco for P4 billion.

Highly placed sources told The STAR yesterday that Tan was asking for P5 billion, but finally agreed to sell the broadcasting company for P4 billion.

It will be recalled that several groups in the past had attempted to enter into a deal with Tan, but failed to agree on the price. These groups include PLDT’s Manuel V. Pangilinan and RFM Corp.

Even before Pangilinan trained his sights on GMA Network Inc., he was already eyeing the possibility of buying ABC-5, but could not work out a deal.

Sources revealed Tan was willing to sell his television station only at the right price.

"It’s almost a done deal. They’ve already agreed on the valuation. Due diligence is a formality since Cojuangco’s group is already familiar with the financial aspect of the company. They’re just finalizing certain aspects, such as the amount of receivables," a source familiar with the negotiations told The STAR.

ABC-5 is computed to have an enterprise value of P2 billion, with the company having around P1.2 billion in debts and P800 million in land assets.

The sources explained that one of the primary reasons for Cojuangco’s decision to acquire ABC-5 is to expand the network and reach of his Dream Broadcasting System., a digital satellite television company.

Dream Broadcasting is the first to offer digital direct-to-home television entertainment via satellite in the country. It utilizes a satellite dish that is set up in the home and an integrated receiver decoder (IRD). Agila II, Philippines’ very own satellite, picks up information from PMSI, the program provider, and then digitized data is in turn sent back directly to the viewer.

"By acquiring ABC-5, his Dream Television will automatically have a nationwide reach," the source said. ABC-5 has 15 stations and 100 cable TV affiliates nationwide.

There were rumors that Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. was part of the acquiring group, but Tonyboy’s camp denied this. "He (Danding) was offered but he said he was not interested," a person close to Tonyboy told The STAR.

The source said that given Tonyboy’s finances (his family is estimated to be worth P26 billion and is still awash with cash with the sale of their PLDT controlling stake in 1999), he can easily give the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN tough competition. One person very close to Tonyboy who used to be a top executive of RPN 9 is expected to have an active role in the management of ABC-5.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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