THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) defended its review of the terminated Makati City subway merger proposal, explaining that the transaction was withdrawn due to pandemic-related concerns.

Its stand came after Philippine Infradev Holdings, Inc. on Tuesday said that the investment of Hong Kong Binjiang Industrial Ltd. in the listed firm’s subsidiary Makati City Subway, Inc. (MCSI) had been terminated.

The company said the investment agreement had been under PCC review for almost a year.

On Thursday, PCC said in a statement: “The parties withdrew their notification of the transaction currently undergoing merger review, and informed the MAO (mergers and acquisitions office) that they decided not to pursue the transaction and to terminate their Share Purchase Agreement due to circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The release of funds under the agreement, the company said, required PCC approval of the transactions.

But the commission said that the withdrawal was pandemic-related.

PCC said that it was informed on Tuesday about the termination of Hong Kong Binjiang’s proposed acquisition of shares in MCSI.

The mergers office, the commission said, accommodated both parties through their merger notification process, which includes “the conduct of multiple consultations and the grant of their several requests for extensions equivalent to 127 days, since they filed their notification with the PCC in September 2020.”

The commission said that its mergers office recognizes that businesses have full discretion to make operations decisions within the bounds of the law and that it will wait for further notifications on the transaction.

“For its part, the MAO carries out its functions in a non-discriminatory manner in accordance with the statutory timelines and regulatory requirements in merger reviews, with this transaction as no exemption,” PCC said.

Philippine Infradev is building the $3.7-billion Makati City Subway Project, a 10-kilometer railway system traversing the city’s central business district.

The company on Tuesday said that MCSI and Richer Today, Inc. will form an unincorporated joint venture for the financing and acquisition of lots for the subway’s Station 5 under a legally binding term sheet.

Shares in Philippine Infradev Holdings closed at P1.43 each on Thursday, up 0.70% or one centavo. — Jenina P. Ibañez