Thursday, April 14, 2011

People's Journal responds to Nestle

"Black coffee, anyone?"
by Willie S. Baun, PEOPLE'S JOURNAL, Streetlights, 14 April 2011
(Article hit the stands on 14 April 2011; original article available online here)

"PEOPLE who have been keeping their ears to the ground at the premises of Nestle Phils., Inc. in Rockwell, Makati are likely to hear rumblings in today’s meeting of the giant multinational food and beverage company’s stockholders not only here but all the way in a town by Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

What’s brewing, to shift to a familiar metaphor, is primarily the issue of predatory pricing filed against NPI by two of its long-time distributors, Service Edge and FDI Forefront.

Since the issue broke out in the open months ago, NPI sources said, there has been a flurry of communications from top honchos of the Swiss firm’s headquarters to its execs here. They are reportedly not pleased with how the issue has been handled by NPI and its legal teams.

Charges filed against NPI with state regulatory agencies cite the company for allegedly compelling its distributors to lower their prices – regardless of their operating costs, interest charges, and taxes. Consequently, some of them lost heavily and have had to lay off personnel. One of them has gone bankrupt.

Affected distributors have also filed criminal complaints of perjury at the Quezon City and Makati City courts against top NPI executives, two of whom have managed to sneak out of the country, thanks to the short arm of our law and justice system.

Is it true that one of the fugitive execs is now a member of the Nestle executive board in Switzerland while the other has been given a plum assignment in the United States? If so, nothing pays like predatory pricing does, indeed.

So, it may well be the creamer, as it were, of choice for the Nestle brew involved in yet another case. Tycoon Henry Sy’s Banco de Oro has likewise sued NPI for allegedly false and deceptive testimony.

Streetlights came out with this earlier, to which a rejoinder was supposed to be forthcoming two weeks ago. It did finally last Monday (PJ Editorial, April 11) but only to “celebrate” the NPI’s fealty to corporate social responsibility across 100 years, all of a century, of business in the country.

PJ sportingly joined NPI, and so does Streetlights to wit:

“But possibly its more significant exercise in this regard (CSR) is its commitment to work with the Department of Agriculture, the Land Bank of the Philippines and Banco de Oro, to infuse more pep in the country’s coffee industry.

“This supposed to pour some P3 billion into the venture, a major portion of which will reportedly be used to provide loans to coffee farmers in the country.

“For this, we say, ‘Cheers’. Let’s drink to that, and not with any alcoholic concoction, but with Nescafe, perhaps?” Heck, you can make that “with Nescafe, for sure,” and I wouldn’t mind because it’s been a fact of this old fogey’s life thrice a day for more than the years he can instantly remember.

In the meantime, it comes as no surprise to learn that this matter of multinational company brushes versus fair trade rules has not escaped the attention of the Senate. Yeah, that of the Senate President – Manong Johnny – who, since 2008 has been pushing for Anti-Trust legislation precisely to preempt foreign firms’ bullying of their local partners.

Black coffee time to sober up, Jose, and so is it for anyone who mistakenly believes corporate hooligans can only be from Nestle."

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