SM readies $1.5-b expansion Friday, August 3, 2012
BILLIONAIRE Henry Sy's shopping mall developer plans to spend P63 billion ($1.5 billion) in the next three years to add as
'many as 18 shopping malls at home and in China as consumer spending rises.
SM Prime Holdings Inc., the biggest Philippine retail developer, plans to build four to five malls a year in the Southeast Asian nation. It's also targeting a shopping center in China every year, said company president Hans Sy, the billionaire's son.
The expansion will help sustain profit growth, the company said, forecasting a 16-percent increase in earnings this year after a 15-percent gain in 2011.
SM Prime shares rose 1.1 percent to P14.06 Thursday, the highest since March 19. The gain pushed the stock 33 percent higher this year, beating the Philippine Stock Exchange index's 21.-percent advance, the best performance among Southeast Asian benchmark stock measures in 2012.
"I am quite positive that we can accelerate our earnings growth," Hans Sy, 56, said in an interview on July 31. "There are still plenty of opportunities in the Philippines and in China. We believe consumer spending in both countries are sustainable and will continue to grow."
New malls in China will also extend its revenue base beyond the 108 million population in the Philippines to the world's fastest growing major economy. Sales in its home market made up more than 90 percent of revenue last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
SM Prime may face the risk of declining funds sent home by Filipinos working abroad, while a "sharp" economic slowdown
in China may make it longer for the company's expansion to bear fruit, according to Astro del Castillo, managing director at
First Grade Finance Inc.
"SM Prime has its own set of risks," Del Castillo said. "The stock is deemed a safe haven because SM Prime's management is conservative and I the Philippines has a resilient consumer market."
Remittances from more than 9 million Filipinos overseas account for about a 10th of the $225-billion economy, with citizens abroad' sending home a record $20 billion in 2011.
The value of those inflows, which helped fund property purchases, may be eroded as the peso strengthened 4.8 percent this year, the most among Asia's most-actively traded currencies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The Philippines ranked 130th of 142 countries in the World Economic Forum's latest survey on the cost to business of terrorism; and 112th in terms of crime and violence-the worst in Southeast Asia.
The expansion in China also comes as the Chinese economy shows sign of easing. The nation's manufacturing teetered on the edge of contraction in July, signaling a rebound in economic growth has yet to take hold. That hasn't stopped other Asian
developers from seeking retail property ventures in the country.
In China, SM Prime's president said he would focus on less affluent or second-tier cities such as Zibo. It plans to open a mall in Chongqing by the end of the year, its fifth in China. Last year, it added a mall each in the Philippines and China.
The new Philippine malls will be located in areas outside Metro Manila, which includes the capital and 16 neighboring towns and cities, said Sy, who's the fourth of the billionaire's six children. The company plans to open five malls in the country
this year, adding to its network of 41 outlets.
"SM Prime's future growth in the Philippines will come from its expansion in provincial areas," said Alex Pomento, strategist
at the Manila unit of Macquarie Group Ltd. "Its venture in China is slowly building up and looks very promising." Bloomberg