STI to expand JASMS, tap debt market for additional funds

Eusebio Tanco is chairman of STI means BUSINESS

MANILA - STI Education Systems Holdings will open more branches of Jose Abad Santos Memorial School.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Eusebio H. Tanco, STI chairman, said the company will expand JASMS since the school is "very important," being the training ground for teachers that Philippine Women's University has been producing for the last 100 years.

Tanco said the company will open a JASMS campus along Ortigas Ave. in Cainta, Rizal -- the third for PWU -- and expand outside of Metro Manila if possible.

"But we'll focus first where the market is," he said.

JASMS offers pre-school, elementary and high school education in its two campuses in Taft Ave, Manila and Quezon City.

Along with the expansion and modernization of STI campuses nationwide, the company will also renovate PWU's facilities and upgrade the univesity's manpower "to restore its prestige," said Tanco, who earlier bought PWU from the Benitezes and folded the university under JTH Davies Holdings Inc. In September, JTH was renamed STI after its backdoor listing.

The company will strengthen linkages between STI and PWU so they could offer courses that marry technology and liberal arts, while keeping the two separate brands.

STI is also scouting for schools to acquire, with those having a strong liberal arts program on top of its list.

"[But] we don't have to acquire more schools if we just want to fuse liberal arts and technology. We might look at schools that are very strong in other courses that are very much in demand," Tanco said.

To fund this possible venture, STI is open to tapping the debt market to augment the additional capital it raised from its follow-on offering last month.

However, executives said STI would still be financially comfortable for 2-3 years with the help of the cash generated from the equity sale.

The company sold 2.63 billion shares to the public on October 24-31, with an option to increase by 273 million shares. STI raised P2.7 billion from the share sale.

These shares were listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange on Wednesday, opening at 96 centavos before trading between 92-99 centavos. It settled at 94, or 4 centavos better than its offer price of 90.