Marcos Jr. administration

Frederick Go, Marcos’ new economic czar, and the companies he leads

Ralf Rivas

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Frederick Go, Marcos’ new economic czar, and the companies he leads
(2nd UPDATE) The business reporter-turned-real estate visionary takes on a new role under the Marcos administration. Get to know more about Frederick Go and Robinsons Land.

MANILA, Philippines – After over three decades, Frederick Go has quit Robinsons Land following his appointment to government.

On Wednesday, December 20, Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC) said Go is resigning as director, president, and CEO effective January 8, 2024, following his appointment as Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. created this post and office just for Go through Executive Order 49 and is a secretary-level position.

His cousin, JG Summit president and CEO and Gokongwei Group chief Lance Gokongwei, will take over the role effective January 8.

Go also resigned as chairman and board member of the Gokongwei’s real estate investment trust firm, RL Commercial REIT Incorporated (RCR), effective January 8.

The 54-year-old Go takes over some tasks previously held by finance and socioeconomic chiefs and will directly supervise crucial agencies, including the Department of Finance, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Budget and Management, Department of Trade and Industry, and other attached agencies. 

He will also sit as member of powerful boards, including the powerful NEDA Board, which approves big ticket infrastructure projects, and the Development Budget Coordination Committee, which is responsible for setting economic targets and projections.

Recall that he was appointed presidential adviser for investment and economic affairs last January and was part of Marcos’ Private Sector Advisory Council. He held these roles concurrently as Robinsons Land CEO.

Some critics have raised possible conflict of interest in the appointment, and Go’s resignation from RLC and RCR is partly meant to address this concern.

ECONOMIC ADVISER. Robinsons Land CEO Frederick Go and members of the Private Sector Advisory Council brief President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on various concerns of the business sector on March 29, 2023. Photo from PCOO.

Go’s leadership was instrumental in growing Robinsons Land into a P75.5-billion real estate company today. Here’s a snapshot of the Gokongweis’ property empire, as well as its major competitors:

Malls

Go joined Robinsons Land in 1992, over a decade since the company was founded. Prior to this, he worked as a business reporter for the country’s oldest English newspaper, The Manila Times. He was also editor-in-chief of Ateneo de Manila University student publication, The Guidon

After his uncle, the late tycoon John Gokongwei Jr., founder of JG Summit, bought The Manila Times in 1989, the clan patriarch asked him to join the daily broadsheet.

How John Gokongwei built his empire from selling peanuts

How John Gokongwei built his empire from selling peanuts

Recalling his conversation with his “Uncle John,” Go said in an interview in January this year: “I just bought The Manila Times, I want you to work there…I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wanted to be in business.” 

After a short stint as reporter, he worked for two years in the sales team of The Manila Times where he earned commissions from getting newspaper advertisements. 

After three years in the newspaper industry, Go said his uncle then asked him to join the family’s property business. (Under pressure from then-president Joseph Estrada, Gokongwei would sell The Manila Times in 1999.) 

In an interview with The CEO Magazine, Go said he wanted to do “something bigger,” three years into his journalism career.

“There was a natural limit to how much we could grow the publication, so I wanted to do something larger in scope and larger in responsibility,” he said in a 2021 interview.

At that time, Robinsons Land only had five assets. Now, it is one of the Philippines’ leading real estate developers in terms of revenues, projects, and size. It has interests in construction of commercial centers, offices, hotels, and residential properties nationwide. Pretty much what Robinsons Land is today was made under Go’s watch.

Its mall business accounts for 29% of its total revenues, boasting a total gross floor area of over three million square meters.

As of December 31, 2022, Robinsons Land operates 53 shopping malls, comprising eight malls in Metro Manila and 45 malls in other urban areas throughout the Philippines, and has another mall in the planning and development stage for completion.

The malls accounted for P13.03 billion or 29% of Robinsons Land’s revenues and P6.58 billion or 34% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization or EBITDA in 2022. Robinsons Malls had assets valued at P93 billion as of end-2022.

In its annual report, Robinsons Land cited two major competitors in the commercial centers space: SM Prime Holdings and Ayala Land.

“Each of these companies has certain distinct advantages over Robinsons Land, including SM Prime's considerably larger mall portfolio and Ayala Land's access to prime real estate in the heart of Metro Manila,” Robinsons Land said.

SM Prime’s mall business had total assets of P467 billion, while Ayala Land had P212 billion.

“There are a number of other players in the shopping mall business in the Philippines, but they are significantly smaller and, because of the high barriers to entry into the business (which include cost, branding, reputation, scale and access to prime real estate), [Robinsons Land] expects that it will continue to compete principally with these two major companies in this market sector for the foreseeable future,” it said. 

Residential developments

Robinsons Land is also involved in residential development and currently has 86 condominiums and 40 subdivisions in its portfolio. Out of these 126 projects, 98 have been completed, while 28 are still under construction.

Its residential business accounted for 20% of total revenues, reaching P9.1 billion in 2022. Total assets in its residential business was valued at P46.3 billion.

It caters mostly to the young and affluent and upper middle class segments. 

In its annual report, Robinsons Land said it does not have the “early mover” advantage and directly competes with the Zobels’ Alveo Land, Andrew Tan’s Megaworld, the Gotianun family’s Filinvest Land, the Ortigas’ Ortigas & Co., and the Consunji clan’s DMCI.

“Based on public records and independent industry reports and its own market knowledge, the Company believes that it is among the top five middle-ranged condominium developers in the Philippines in terms of revenues from sales,” it said.

It also said it is striving to compete with developers in the elite market, including Ayala Land Premier, Rockwell Land Corporation, Century Properties Group, and Megaworld.

Offices

Robinsons Land also develops office buildings for lease in Metro Manila and in strategic locations around the Philippines. It has completed 31 office developments in Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, Cebu City, Ilocos Norte, Tarlac City, Naga City, Davao City, Bacolod City, and Iloilo City. It also has office projects in the central business districts of Pasig City, Makati City, and Taguig City. 

Its office business accounted for P7.1 billion or 16% of revenues in 2022. Total assets amounted to P35.8 billion as of end-2022.

The biggest competitors of Robinsons Land under this segment are Ayala Land, Megaworld, and SM.

“The Company competes in this market on the basis of the strategic locations of its buildings, including their proximity to the malls and residences as part of its mixed-use developments and its accessibility to public transportation, building features as the office projects can accommodate all types of tenants including companies in the IT Business Process Management (IT-BPM) sector, corporate headquarters and traditional offices,” it said. 

Robinsons Land historical stock prices. Chart from Philippine Stock Exchange.
Hotels

Robinsons Land’s hotel portfolio caters to mostly upscale and mid-market segments. As of end-2022, it owned 25 hotels and resorts with a total of 3,877 room keys in urban locations.

Its biggest developments include the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Manila Galleria, both located in Metro Manila, as well as Fili Urban Resort in Cebu. For the affordable market segment, Robinsons Land has Go Hotels.

Its hotel and resorts business accounted for P2.3 billion or 5% of total revenues. Total assets was valued at P21 billion.

Robinsons Land identifies the Zobels’ Ayala Land, Tan’s Alliance Global, the Sys’ SM Hotels and Conventions Corporation, and the Gotianun’s Filinvest Land as major competitors in this space.

Robinsons Land also has interests in logistics and industrial facilities and has seven facilities in its portfolio located in Laguna, Muntinlupa City, Rizal, and Pampanga. It also has interests in land bank acquisition.

Robinsons Land has the following subsidiaries:

  • Robinson’s Inn
  • RL Commercial REIT Incorporated
  • Robinsons Properties Marketing & Management Corporation
  • Robinsons (Cayman) Limited
  • Altus Angeles
  • Altus Mall Ventures Incorporated
  • GoHotels Davao
  • RLC Resources Limited
  • Bonifacio Property Ventures
  • Bacoor R and F Land Corporation
  • RLGB Land Corporation
  • RL Property Management Incorporated
  • RL Fund Management Incorporated
  • Malldash Corporation
  • Robinsons Logistics and Industrials Incorporated
  • RL Digital Ventures Incorporated
  • Staten Property Management Incorporated.

On top of overseeing this real estate empire, Go held posts in the following companies:

  • Universal Hotels and Resorts – president
  • RL Commercial REIT, Altus Property Ventures – chairman
  • Robinsons Bank Corporation – vice-chairman of the board of directors
  • Luzon International Premier Airport Development Corporation – vice-chairman
  • Robinsons Land Foundation, Universal Cultural Foundation – trustee and president 
  • Shanghai Ding Feng Real Estate Development Company Limited, Xiamen Pacific Estate Investment Company Limited, Chengdu Ding Feng Real Estate Development Company Limited, Taicang Ding Feng Real Estate Development Company Limited, Taicang Ding Sheng Real Estate Development Company Limited, Chongqing Robinsons Land Real Estate Company Limited, and Chongqing Ding Hong Real Estate Development Company Limited – group general manager

Go is also a director of Cebu Air, Manila Electric Company (Meralco), JG Summit Olefins Corporation, and Cebu Light Industrial Park. He also serves as vice-chairman of the Philippine Retailers Association. 

Meralco, the Philippines’ largest private electricity distributor, disclosed on December 21, Thursday, that Go had resigned as director effective January 8, 2024. 

Given the Gokongweis' diverse business interests, it remains to be seen how Go will decide on issues that might affect the clan's concerns. – Rappler.com

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(Editor's note: We have updated this article to reflect Robinsons Land Corporation's and RL Commercial REIT Incorporated's amendments to their stock exchange disclosures on Wednesday afternoon, December 20, which no longer say that Frederick Go's brother, Faraday, would assume the post of director of RLC and also director of RL Commercial REIT Inc., following the appointment of Frederick as Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs.)

1 comment

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  1. ET

    It is time for the competitors of the Gokongwei family to be afraid. These are the Sy, Ayala, Tan, Villar, etc. families. Secondly and more importantly, it is the time for the concerned critical-thinking Filipinos with the help of investigative journalists to watch how the Gokongwei’s wealth will soar under the President Marcos Jr. administration. Divestment and resignation from business positions are not enough because it is the networks of relationships that matter the most. It is expected that corruption will continue and may even worsen under the Political Patronage system of President Marcos Jr.’s administration.

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.