Ayalas credit Aquino govt for ‘political stability’

Rappler.com
Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala tells CNN that that political stability in the Philippines is key in their decision to invest long term

CNN’s ‘Talk Asia’ features Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, respectively the Chairman & CEO, and President of the Ayala Corporation, the country’s largest and oldest business conglomerate. Photo by CNN

MANILA, Philippines – The Zobel de Ayala brothers – Jaime Augusto and Fernando – credited the government of President Aquino for providing “a period of political stability.”

On CNN’s latest Talk Asia program, the 8th generation family members of the country’s oldest conglomerate, Ayala Corp., stressed that the predictable political environment the country is enjoying now benefited their businesses and is key in their decision to invest long term.

“Every businessman around the world is looking for stability… At the end of the day, investment depends on a very peaceful and predictable political environment. That’s what we’re seeing,” Fernando Zobel de Ayala, 52, chair of Ayala Land, told CNN correspondent Andrew Stevens.

Ayala Land is the country’s largest real estate firm, and is influenced by the state of confidence buyers have on the country’s long term prospects.

They reminisced about the tumultuous Marcos years when, according to Fernando, “there were times we were selling one lot a month in our real estate company – that’s one lot a month – that’s nothing. Financially, it was quite demanding…Managing a company for survival as opposed to growth was the norm then.”

In 2011, the first full year of the Aquino government, Ayala Land realized a P7.14 billion net income, an all-time high. This 2012, the property developer expects to launch 67 projects worth a total of P90 billion, another record high.

Their banking and investment units under Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) have likewise been benefiting from fund inflows. “Filipinos have brought back an enormous amount of funds back into the country. If you look at the stock market and the impact that the local funds have had – if you look at the asset management part of all our banking system – it’s been growing by about 20% or more each year,  an indication that Filipinos are bringing their money back and investing in their country.

The group is also returning to infrastructure business, snapping the Daang Hari toll road project, the first under the Aquino government’s public-private partnership (PPP) scheme. It recently partnered with another conglomerate, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), to jointly bid for rail system projects that the government will auction off.

“If you talk of roadways, toll roads, rail – the rails system – our airports, so that we can encourage more tourism in the country, there’s an enormous number of things that can be done. And you’ve got companies and foreign partners very interested in participating in this, and the banks ready to lend.  It’s a very, very unique time for the country. And we need to take advantage of this opportunity,” Fernando stressed.  

Impeachment

JAZA credits the country’s “political stability” to the good governance efforts of the Aquino administration.

“I think the country has moved to a whole different level of governance,” he said.

When CNN’s Stevens asked about the ongoing impeachment trial against Chief Justice Renato Corona, JAZA’s reply stressed the quality of leadership the Philippines has now.

“The challenge is there, but actually it all boils down to leadership. And I think we have a current president and his cabinet who basically said, ‘We have to turn a new corner on the governance front.’ And I think everything that they have done up to now is basically setting a whole new bar and a whole new standard. They are basically walking the talk,” JAZA said.

Fernando said the almost 2-year-old Aquino administration has done much to restore confidence. They’ve been extremely careful in how public funds are spent. They’ve made it very clear that foreign investment would be very welcome and that they will have a level playing field when they come to the country.”

Politics and business

JAZA said having foreign partners in their previous business ventures had allowed them to be “immune from some of the changes that were taking place on the industry front and the economic front,” thus, the family “never” had to be pressured to have “an engagement with a political front.”

He said the family was never keen on joining politics. “There’s never been an interest on the political front in the family, and certainly I don’t think it’s a driver of Fernando and I.”

Their involvement in the non-profit sector is their alternative to doing public service. “I like to think we’ve been committed to the broader social development goals of the country through our engagement in civil society, non-profits, and many other areas, aside from just the business engagement.”  

“I think there’s a lot that one can do for a country beyond the realm of politics,” he stressed. – Rappler.com

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