How 2 civil engineers became PH's youngest billionaires

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez,

Posted at Aug 24 2014 09:25 AM | Updated as of Aug 25 2014 09:23 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Almost two decades ago, two civil engineering graduates took a leap of faith and entered the construction industry without much experience.

Through hard work, the partners are now running one of the biggest construction companies in the country, Megawide Construction.

Megawide president and chief executive officer Michael Cosiquien said while things are running smoothly now, that wasn’t the case when they first started.

“We were just out of the university, we had minimal training, so it was really on-the-job training for us,” Cosiquien told ANC’s "Inside Business with Coco Alcuaz."

“It was really difficult. We learned the values of hard work, perseverance… All the virtues that our parents were telling us were true,” he added.

Megawide chief operating officer Edgar Saavedra said because they were both engineers and both came from business-oriented families, it became natural for them to put them up their own construction firm despite their inexperience.

Cosiquien said it is that same inexperience that drove them to become more aggressive and eventually opened the door for their first project.

“We continuously went after projects and I think in 2004, we built our first high-rise, a 25-storey building,” he said.

It wasn’t until 2007, however, when Megawide’s business began to pick up.

The firm bagged two projects of Sy-led SM Development Corp. (SMDC)—the Berkeley Residences in Katipunan and Grass Residences in North EDSA.

“That’s when we experienced tremendous growth,” recalled Cosiquien.

Saavedra noted that what set them apart from the competition is that aside from their expertise on construction, their extensive knowledge in engineering allowed them to bring down cost of projects, making them attractive to major developers like SM.

Cosiquien attributed Megawide’s growth to the support and trust that SM gave them.

“They saw how we worked and delivered our projects. We’ve built trust and confidence in the family. After that, we won more projects with them and in 2011, we decided to release in the stock market we invited them to invest out of respect, courtesy and utang na loob because we were able to grow our company very fast because of their support,” he said.

The 40-year-old Cosiquien and Saavedra are among the Philippines’ richest and youngest billionaires, according to Forbes Magazine.

They are ranked 43rd and 44th, respectively, in the Philippines’ 50 Richest List with a net worth of about $170 million to $175 million as of July 2013.

Megawide and its Indian partner GMR Airports recently bagged the P17.5 billion contract for the expansion of the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

Megawide is also involved in other public-partnership projects, including the construction of school buildings under the Department of Education.

The firm is also open to join the bidding for the Aquino administration’s biggest PPP project yet, the P122.8 billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike project.

“We don’t have details yet but if there is an opportunity to bid, we will bid,” said Cosiquien.

Saavedra, meanwhile, said Megawide’s participation will depend on the partner that it will tap.

“If we get a strong partner then we will be confident to bid,” he said.