Philippine Broadcaster Caught in Duterte Cross-Hairs Plunges

(Bloomberg) -- ABS-CBN Corp., the Philippines’ largest media company, sank to its lowest in more than a month after the stock exchange allowed the shares to trade again following an eight-day halt.

The stock fell as much as 14% before closing down 7.2% to 16.24 pesos, its lowest since April 3. The Philippine Stock Exchange suspended it on May 6 pending ABS-CBN’s discussion on how its business will be affected by a government order that stopped its broadcast on May 5.

The House of Representatives on Monday resumed its debates on a temporary franchise that will allow the company to air until the end of October, after initially approving it last week. The Senate on Tuesday will hold a separate hearing on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise.

The Supreme Court is also scheduled to tackle on Tuesday the broadcaster’s plea to overturn the National Telecommunication Commission’s shutdown order. ABS-CBN, in its petition submitted to the court, said it’s losing up to 35 million pesos ($688,000) in daily advertising revenues and that the jobs of its 11,000 employees are at risk.

The broadcaster, often the target of President Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks, was ordered shut by the regulator a day after its franchise expired. Duterte first threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal in April 2017, accusing it of bias during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The stock surged to a one-year high in February as Duterte said he wouldn’t interfere in Congress’s franchise deliberations. It then sank 35% in three weeks amid a wider coronavirus-fueled sell-off, before rebounding 14% by the time it got halted.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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