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Cirtek Holdings debuts on the Philippine Stock Exchange

(Disclaimer: My posts about any publicly listed corporation should not be construed as a buy/sell recommendation. Any person interested in stock investments must do his/her own due diligence review before deciding to buy or sell.)

I was invited recently to the debut of Cirtek Holdings Philippines Corp. (Cirtek) on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).

(L-R) PSE President/CEO Hans B. Sicat; Cirtek VP/Director Nicanor Lizares; Cirtek Chairman/President Jerry Liu; Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines Honorable Jejomar Binay; PSE Chairman Jose T. Pardo; and CVCLaw Senior Partner and Former National Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, Jr (photo taken from Cirtek Holdings website)

Cirtek’s listing (which carries the stock symbol “CHIPS” on the exchange) came on the heels of a very successful initial public offering (IPO) which saw the stock oversubscribed over 4 times.
Because I did not know much about Cirtek (goes to show how long I’ve been away from the corporate world), I tried to google a little bit about the company.
Cirtek Holdings is the holding company of two wholly-owned subsidiaries namely Cirtek Electronics Corporation (CEC) and Cirtek Electronics International Corporation (CEIC). Both subsidiaries are involved in the assembly and testing of electronic devices. Cirtek was organized as a Philippine corporation on Feb. 10, 2011. Its recent IPO generated PhP 295.14-M which consisted of 42.16 million common stock representing 26% of its total issued and outstanding stock. The success of the IPO offering, considering that the offer period only lasted from Nov. 8-14, 2011 showed the public’s positive acceptance of the stock.
Here’s a short interview I conducted with Cirtek’s Chief Financial Officer, Anthony Albert Buyawe, who I discovered was an ex-SGV person like me.

Cirtek does not produce ordinary chips. They make specialized chips that are used in laptops/tablets, defense industry (their lips remained sealed as to exactly what defense technology), auto industry, and medical industry, among others.
How well did it do? Well, on opening day last Nov. 18, the stock closed at P7.95, up from its P7 per share IPO price.
When asked if Cirtek benefited from the floods in Thailand, Cirtek was circumspect, stating that they were saddened by what happened in Thailand but acknowledged that they were indeed negotiating new contracts from flood-hit Thailand. Four of these contracts have been concluded and another 6 could be finalized by end of 2011 or early 2012.
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Meralco opens more digital doors to its customers

I still remember the days of old when I was growing up. Whenever we had a power outage in our area, it was a challenge to reach Meralco. Phone lines were jammed all the time. We had to tune in to radio stations via our portable radio to find out what areas were affected and how soon power would be restored. No one had any idea if their area would be affected by maintenance of power lines. Basically, Meralco customers were pretty much in the dark (pun intended).

A new Meralco, however, has been emerging from its corporate shell. Going beyond its official website which was then a one-way, company-to-customers information dissemination tool, it began engaging the public on social media by creating a Twitter account (@meralco) and a Facebook page. Suddenly, access to Meralco widened beyond the capacity of phone lines as maintenance schedules were posted online and inquiries from customers were answered more rapidly.

In continuing plans to better inform the public and to improve public service, Meralco has revamped its website to make it more responsive to the public’s needs.

Homepage

When you land on its homepage, it gives you two different portals. FOR CUSTOMERS provides answers to customers’ concerns including electricity consumption, bill-related matters and new account applications. THE COMPANY is where you find corporate information like annual reports, business partnerships, stakeholder relations and investor information.

Since most of us are consumers, I’ll focus on the FOR CUSTOMERS portal. Here’s what you get when you choose that option.

The navigation bar on the topmost part lists the website’s main sections. At the bottom are links to frequently accessed information. The Quick Links on left sidebar provide more detailed information for customers and the center area is reserved for the most recent videos, photos and articles for customers to know.

The Meralco Appliance Calculator (AppCal for short), which is a link under Quick Links, brings you to a web application where customers can compute and gauge their electricity consumption based on the different appliances they use at home. Computations can be specific to the type of appliance, corresponding wattage, and frequency of usage. The AppCal calculates cost per hour, day, week, and month. The AppCal also takes into account the prevailing generation charge for the month.

For those with smartphones and tablets, AppCal is now a FREE downloadable app. I’ve downloaded it on my ipad.

Meralco is setting up more innovative plans, one of which is offering prepaid electricity, much like a mobile phone’s prepaid load feature. Their other innovation plans can be read in my post HERE.
Find Meralco in these digital areas:

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McDonald’s Philippines turns 30 with a new look

Today, September 30, 2011, McDonald’s Philippines turns a big 30!

The first McDonald’s in the Philippines opened in 1981 in Morayta. Today, there are about 325 McDonald’s branches all over the country.

To celebrate three decades of serving burgers, fries, sundaes, chicken and more to young and old alike, 4 Anniversary Stores (Makati Cinema Square, Greenhills, Quezon Ave. and North Ave.) underwent a major renovation to give McDonald’s a brand new look.

This new design concept can actually be seen already in McDonald’s stores in other parts of the world. Some of the features include comfortable, spacious dining areas, vivid color splashes, dynamic graphics and architectural accents. Common to every branch are some features. A red blade (vertical external posts that distinctly mark every McDonald’s store), a white ribbon (horizontal lines that go around the external part of the store), and a pylon (the familiar McDo yellow arch), and TidyMan (a caricature that marks the spot in each branch where people can dispose of garbage).

Modern graphics 
Tidy Man

Men’s room

Ladies’ room

Despite some common features, the anniversary stores do not look the same. The profile of the type of people who frequent each branch was studied so that every branch layout projects the lifestyle and habits of its clientele.

MAKATI CINEMA SQUARE

The theme here is FORM. Instead of bright colors, this branch is done up in subdued brown considering that most of those who come here are urban dwellers. Following the red blade design outside, a red ribbon runs around the ceiling of the branch. Stylized text and modern graphics line the walls.



GREENHILLS

This is the one closest to me and is the first ever drive-thru McDonald’s branch. It actually did not need renovating as it is one of the newly renovated branches that sports a modern look. But it’s been redone again to reflect FUN. The Italian designer, Fred Avanci, who designed the Greenhills look calls it LIM (short for Less Is More). Majority of those who come here are very young so splashes of color and a polka dot wall are used as accents. The colors used in this branch are warm. Because it is one of the 24/7 branches which also has a McCafe and a Dessert Center, the entire branch has been zoned. For example, the area nearest the McCafe has furniture and designs that look like a cafe, including small round tables since it is expected that those who stay here usually order coffee and sandwiches only. This is different from the zone area for the usual McDonald’s crowd where tables are larger to accommodate those having meals.

QUEZON AVENUE

The theme here is ALLEGRO CLASSIC. Allegro means “happy” so while the colors are subdued (browns, reds, whites and oranges), this branch still looks very vibrant and gives out a cafe ambience. Its signature look is a bullseye. There is a party area as well as a play area for the toddlers. This is also a 24/7 branch with a McCafe and Dessert Center.

NORTH AVENUE

ALLEGRO URBAN is the look in this branch which is near Trinoma. The crowd here is older and urban so the branch features high ceilings and warm colors as well. It is a 24/7 branch as well but only has a McCafe machine and not a full-fledged McCafe. It’s got a Dessert Center as well.

I’m excited to drop by the Greenhills branch and check out the newly renovated place in person. Once these changes are rolled out to the remaining branches, the McDonald’s experience is sure to become a lot better.

HAPPY 30th ANNIVERSARY to McDonald’s Philippines!

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My visual tour of Gardenia’s plant

Gardenia‘s meteoric rise in the bread industry to No. 1 is nothing short of spectacular. I remember my Mom telling me about a decade ago to buy Gardenia for my family (I was still buying another brand which I was familiar with growing up) and my reaction then was “What is Gardenia?” Today, ask anyone on the street what brand comes to mind when you say ‘bread’ and probably 9 out of 10 will say Gardenia.

I had been hearing about Gardenia’s plant tours and was secretly hoping I would have a chance to go some day. First, I wanted to know how all Gardenia breads were made since it was a permanent item on my shopping list. Secondly, I wanted to assure myself that the production process observed strict quality control. And third, just plain curiosity as to why Gardenia came from behind and overran all existing bread manufacturers.

My opportunity came last week when some of us bloggers were taken on a special tour of Gardenia’s plant inside the Laguna International Industrial Park in Binan, Laguna. Here’s what we saw and learned….

A nice surprise – a special banner welcomed us at the main lobby

In a special audiovisual room, we got to watch a video of the entire production process, after which the marketing manager also talked about how the finished breads are distributed throughout the country. Some trivia we picked up:

* Gardenia runs a machine that can produce 6,000 loaves of bread AN HOUR! In the same plant, they have a machine that can do 4,000 loaves/hour as well as a machine that can do 2,000 loaves/hour. In their recently opened Cebu plant, they use a machine that does 2,000 loaves/hour.

* From P137-M in total sales in 1995, Gardenia’s total sales in 2010 grew to P2.5-B. And based on a Nielsen audit in 2010, they command 67% of the bread market.

* Feeder trucks go out every day to different locations where smaller trucks meet them to further deliver the bread to the retail outlets so that consumers get them fresh every day.

* Every day also (esp for big retail outlets), unsold bread is taken back by Gardenia and brought to a holding area in the plant. There, contractors buy all the unsold bread. These are processed and broken down as fish meal. No returned bread is resold for human consumption. The holding area is thoroughly cleaned after all the bread is taken so that no chances of bacteria or molds can get into the production area.

Of course, nothing could beat actually seeing the entire production line from start to finish from a glass-enclosed viewing area high above the production floor so here we go…

Sponge and Dough Mixing Stages

50% of the bread’s ingredients are mixed and fermented in a cold room to develop the bread’s aroma. Once fermented, the other 50% of the ingredients are added in and mixed with the fermented dough.


Dividing, Rounding, Intermediate Proofing, Moulding Stages

At this stage, the dough is cut to size, rounded, and passed through a check weigher so that every loaf weighs the same. Cut dough that are over- or underweight drop from the conveyor belt into a pan. No hands touch the dough throughout this process. Those that pass the weight test are moulded into loaves.

Dough is divided and rounded
Rounded dough are weighed as they move on conveyor belts

Loaves about to have lids placed on them before baking

Spiral Cooling

Baked loaves are placed on a spiral cooler that has several open and turning circles, allowing air to freely go around the hot bread to cool it down prior to being packed and sealed. I watched like a child at the two giant mountains of bread slowly turning and turning. It was a fascinating sight.

Slicing, Bagging, Packing
The cooled loaves travel through an automatic slicer, then move on to an automatic bagger that stuffs the sliced bread into its familiar packaging. The G-lock is also attached at this point to seal the loaf. The bagged bread then moves to the final stage where these are placed on trays and sent to a distribution center where it is held prior to being loaded into feeder trucks.
Automatic slicing
Automatic bagging and sealing with G-lock system
Almost ready to ship out!
Distribution Center

The G-Lock Seal
When I used to buy bread before, my only concern was the expiration date. I thought the colors used for the plastic seals were just random to add some color to the entire packaging. It was only later that I found out that there was one color for every day of the week and signified the day the bread was delivered to the retail outlet.

Gardenia staffers remember the codes this way — TOY-BGRW

I did get to test this. I was at the grocery last Wednesday and the G-lock was supposed to be yellow. I checked the bread on the shelves. Yup – yellow G-locks! Now we know how to check for freshness.

As a mother, I was very happy to have seen the innards of Gardenia. I am comforted, seeing how they made the bread, that I would always have fresh bread for my family. For those of us who do not have luxuries like time to bake our own breads (or mothers who bake), Gardenia is the sure alternative.

I’d like to thank the entire team of Gardenia, most especially its President, Mr. Jun Umali, who took the time to be with us and patiently answer all our questions.

Bloggers with the Gardenia officers (the President, Mr. Umali, is the one with a tie)

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Meralco: Innovating to Empower

Who ever thought utilities could ever be exciting? 
During my corporate life years back, discussions about electricity had always been a little over my head although for a while, I was knee-deep in power discussions (financial and legal) because my employer had a joint venture with an American power company to put up a diesel power plant on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) arrangement and I was one of those in the front line. When people discussed the computations to arrive at the charge to consumers per kilowatt hour, I tended to tune out often. Talking electricity was not exactly the most exciting topic I could think of.

But a few days ago, a handful of us bloggers were invited to come see how Meralco was innovating, using available technology to empower its consumers and shape a world-class standard of living. We got a glimpse of what they are looking into to employ digital technology and incorporate it into home living.

As a consumer of electricity, walk through these possibilities with me and see which ones you’d like to see Meralco introduce soon to your home.

Innovation #1: Meralco’s Current Distribution Automation

Think of this situation. A power outage suddenly occurs somewhere in Meralco’s web of grids. In real-time, using information on their screen, they are able to pinpoint the source of the outage, shut down that malfunctioning grid, and even re-route power, if needed. The red and green icons on the screen reflect where the grids are closed or open. With these equipment, Meralco can monitor and control distribution systems from remote locations, including the overall health of the electric grid. All in real time.

They are now looking into other innovations that may be introduced to consumers. These innovations try to take advantage of existing and developing technologies to empower the consumer to manage his own energy consumption by making this information accessible even when the consumer is away from home.
I know that in North America, in particular, many green homes are already equipped with these technologies. Let’s take a look at some innovations.


Innovation #2: The Smart Meter

Think prepaid load. If it can be done with mobile phones, why not power? If you can top up your phone via SMS, it can now be done for electricity as well. Here’s how it works:

The lighted meter has load while the unlighted one does not.

Software allows you to monitor your usage and load

A light’s energy consumption reflects on this devic

Simply send out an SMS indicating how much you want to top up. 
When you’re done, this is the confirmation you see on your phone

Innovation #3: The Energy Management Portal

Imagine that now, you can have a device in your home that is able to check your energy consumption (by room or per appliance), compare your consumption to a previous month or previous year — all in real time. Via an energy management portal on a computer, you can analyze your consumption so you can turn appliances on and off to meet your power budget.

Illustration of what a smart home could look like

From your device, monitor your energy consumption timeline…

…and your utility consumption — in real-time

Innovation #4: The Smart Home

Here’s what a future smart home would look like. Add a “smart plug” to your TV, DVD player, ref or any other appliance and you can program it to switch on and off. Use your computer at home or when you’re away, use your phone or tablet to manage which devices at home turn on and off. All in real-time.

The demo below showed that with the device, you can actually set an electrical budget, say for a month. And by means of the software, lights and other pre-programmed devices can be turned off when it nears your electric budget.

Innovation #5: The Home Area Network

The prospect of a home totally controlled with the flick of a remote control was quite fascinating as I spoke with the people from Cisco. They walked us through different ways you could control your home in terms of security, entertainment and energy remotely. Your handheld device, whether it is an iPad, iPhone, Androids, etc can be transformed into control devices.

The pictures below show that by attaching a security camera (the one above costs around P800 only) to your gate or front door (or wherever you please), combined with the right software, you can actually see who is ringing your doorbell. Some security cams can be made to move around to give you a wider view. With a special door lock (they said it costs around P8,000 at hardware stores), you can open/close the door with your handheld, manually input a code to open it, or use an actual key to open the door.
The same software, via your handheld, can also act as a remote to activate your entertainment system so you can choose the movie you want to watch without physically having to go near your DVD player.

3 ways to open the door: 1) remotely via iPad 2) manually by inputting a code
3) manually with the use of a normal key
A control panel on this iPad allows you to turn lights on and off or simply dim them.
This light switch with options for Home, Away and Vacation allow you to program lights to turn on/off depending on which option you choose.
I was told that the Twin Oaks Condominium by Greenfields District along Shaw Boulevard which is being constructed, will be the first smart and green high-rise condominium that will employ this energy system. In the near future, I think many planned high-rises as well as homes will be considering these energy-saving home systems too.
Innovation #6: Meralco Apps
Got an iPad, iPhone or Android-powered device? You could have a lot more information at the tips of your fingers and available on the fly. Some time back, I wrote about the Meralco Appliance Calculator, accessible via Meralco’s website, which helps you calculate which appliances are responsible for most of your energy bill. Now the Meralco Appliance Calculator is a FREE app downloadable from the App Store. 
Meralco Appliance Calculator as seen in the App Store

But aside from this app, there are more apps coming to your device. Take a look…

Power Maintenance Schedule – Find out if there is a maintenance schedule in your area.
Business Office Directory – Locate the nearest Meralco Business Center.
Meralco e-Bill – No need to wait for the bill to be delivered to your home. Get the details right away online.
After I finished the walkthrough, I actually felt excited to test out, for real, the energy innovations shown to us. Of course, I realize not all of these can be implemented all at the same time but being a bit geeky, I really appreciate the ease with which energy management and conservation can be done both online and remotely. But for these innovations to work, there needs to be a critical mass that will be willing to pay the price for the convenience. That is the magic number that Meralco still needs to work out.
Considering the present Philippine demographics, with many still living below the poverty line, the innovation that will be most helpful and probably most used across society classes will be the prepaid load concept. I think the prepaid concept just naturally clicks with those on a very tight budget and many Filipinos are unfortunately in that situation. By allowing them to consciously top up based on their own budgets, it also makes them more conscious of energy conservation.
How about you? Which innovation did you like best?