By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

LISTED conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) announced on Monday that it signed an agreement with the Magsaysay-led Carmen’s Best Group, with the former acquiring a 51% stake in the dairy company.

MPIC seeks to help the country reduce its reliance on imports, including dairy products, said Manuel V. Pangilinan, MPIC chairman, president, and chief executive officer, during a press briefing.

“Carmen’s Best concept has always been to start from the farm all the way to consumers. That’s the kind of model we would like to see,” he added.

MPIC entered into a partnership with the Carmen’s Best Group, which consists of Carmen’s Best Dairy Products, Inc., Carmen’s Best International Dairy Co., Inc., Real Fresh Dairy Farms, Inc., and The Laguna Creamery, Inc., as it hopes to “further develop and expand the operations of its dairy farm and dairy products manufacturing facilities,” the company said in a statement.

The group is the maker of Carmen’s Best Ice Cream and the Philippines’ only locally pasteurized and homogenized fresh milk, Holly’s Milk.

“Under the partnership, the Carmen’s Best Group will integrate its assets and operations into The Laguna Creamery, Inc. (TLCI), with MPIC owning a 51% equity interest in TLCI and the Carmen’s Best Group retaining a 49% equity interest,” MPIC added.

June Cheryl A. Cabal-Revilla, MPIC’s chief finance, risk, and sustainability officer, said at the briefing that the listed company will be investing P198 million in TLCI. The transaction values Carmen’s Best at P288 million.

“The agricultural sector presents a wide range of possibilities that can help us achieve several goals — to strengthen the food supply chain and augment the accessibility of resources for all Filipinos as well as provide more opportunities for growth in an otherwise underserved business,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

“Ultimately, the country should aim for substantial independence in food. And we must feed our people first,” he added.

MPIC and Carmen’s Best intend to transform TLCI into a fully integrated dairy business.

TLCI will serve local demand and eventually compete globally, according to MPIC.

“Carmen’s Best has always had family at the heart of its brand — from the humble beginnings of my father and his friend’s dairy farming project, to the touch of creativity I added to turn it into a modest ice cream business,” said Francisco Delgado Magsaysay, Carmen’s Best’s chief executive officer.

“This union makes us appreciative that MPIC sees the value of what we already built, while also elevating Carmen’s Best to a level beyond what we envisioned,” he added.

MPIC is one of three key Philippine units of First Pacific, the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.