MANILA, Philippines - In contrast to that period when the Philippines had to sell itself abroad as a lucrative investment site, the government and the private sector have embarked on separate investment missions not of their own accord, but at the behest of fund managers looking to hear first-hand the country’s success story.
This was learned from Alberto Villarosa, President and Chief Executive Officer at mid-sized lender Security Bank who also heads the influential Bankers Association of the Philippines.
Just last week, Villarosa was invited by a group of fund managers led by two very large investment banks with a global presence to tell the Philippine story whose outcome could only strengthen further the country’s standing as investment destination.
He told reporters he just came back from a “no deal” road show in Hong Kong where his team met with a group of seven fund managers and in Singapore where he met with eight or nine more.
His team is separate and independent from that headed by Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima similarly looking to tell Manila’s recent economic successes in both the fiscal and monetary fronts.
Purisima was better positioned to relate first-hand the country’s anti-corruption and governance campaign, which is a topic that fund managers like to validate from the country’s business people, Villarosa said.
“I wish I am at liberty to reveal their names, but these are two major multinationals,” he said of the big-name investment banks.
He said while previous missions used to deal with low-rank fund managers, this and several earlier missions were handled by senior executives who exhibited “very healthy appetite and interest for the Philippines.”
“I’ve seen it before. And back then we would see five to six investors. Now we’re seeing a lot of appetite from investment bankers in no-deal road shows and to think we are only a mid-capitalized bank,” Villarosa said.
Security Bank reported first-half income of P5 billion on the basis of loans that grew by 29 percent versus loan growth of only around 18 percent across the industry.
“We are seeing a lot of interest in the country and I think it is fairly healthy,” he said.
American investment banks that normally do not bother to give the Philippines a second look also requested to see Villarosa’s team in November.
The “no deal” road show would present the Philippines before fund managers in San Francisco, New York and Boston.
“We are not in the radar screens of the Americans, but there is genuine interest in the Philippines,” Villarosa said.
According to him, the questions tend to drift towards governance and the government’s Public Private Partnership program.
There were questions on the country’s preparations for Basle 3 which pertains to the global effort mandating the banks to adopt still higher or more stringent performance ratios.
Villarosa said the mission projected a sense the regulators and market participants “were on top of the situation, that we are proactive and in control.”
These issues were very important to the fund managers whose command of billions of dollars worth of portfolio funds have allowed the Philippines to post a series of surpluses in the balance of payments, a strong foreign currency reserve and a fiscal sector whose indebted state is so much lower now compared to some of the more advanced economies in the US and euro area, Villarosa said.