Philippines’ 50 Richest: Betting On IPOs Amid A Market Slump And Pandemic

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Philippines’ Richest 2020. See the full list here.

Despite the benchmark PSEi declining 26% over the past year, some of the Philippines’ wealthiest remain bullish and are taking their companies public or have vowed to do so this year.

Ayala Land, controlled by Jaime Zobel de Ayala and his family, made history on August 13 by listing the country’s first-ever REIT, the AREIT, raising 13.6 billion pesos ($278 million). The stock’s price has stagnated, however, since its IPO.

The lackluster performance isn’t denting optimism. “Being the first to list a REIT in the Philippines has its advantages, especially when it comes to market perception, so Ayala Land would have wanted to capitalize on that opportunity,” says Regina Capital analyst Anna Corenne Agravio in Manila.

“Over the long term, it’s been proven historically that the [real estate] industry has been quicker to rebound.”

While legislation allowing REITs to list was passed more than a decade ago, recent changes that eliminated taxes and relaxed regulations attracted property developers and investors. “It’s going to be less volatile because they are giving away 90% of earnings as dividends,” says Maybank ATR analyst Romel Francis Liboon. “It’s a safer bet for investors.”

A second REIT listing is slated for October from DoubleDragon’s Edgar Sia II. His grocery chain MerryMart went public in June—the PSE’s first IPO this year—raising 1.6 billion pesos. The stock has since almost doubled, buoyed by strong pandemic-fueled demand for consumer essentials. “It’s a rare chance for a new player to quickly grow in a shorter span of time than it would in good times,” said Sia in an email; his net worth jumped 75% to $700 million.

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