Ayala Corp. eyes utilities for growth

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 11 2009 06:36 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2009 04:06 AM

Ayala Corp., the Philippines' largest conglomerate, said Wednesday it may venture into power utilities to help it ride out the global economic slump.

The firm, which has interests in banking, property, water utilities and telecommunications, said it was also looking into expanding its outsourcing business.

"We've been able to generate some healthy liquidity, which puts us in a very good situation and (in a position to) possibly fund new opportunities," senior managing director and chief financial officer Rufino Luis Manotok told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.

The conglomerate "intends to look at the power sector," he said without elaborating.

Manotok added that "the crisis gives us more reason to invest in BPO" (business process outsourcing)".

Dow Jones put Ayala's cash pile at about P47 billion ($1 billion), largely boosted by dividends from units and a series of fundraisings meant to increase liquidity and pare debt.

The global economic downturn gives Ayala an opportunity to take advantage of lower asset values.

"Ayala made some of its investments in the most difficult of times. It's not as if we will shy away from investment opportunities (because of the crisis)," Manotok added.

Ayala's net profit plunged 43 percent from a year earlier to P7.8 billion in the nine months to September 2008, with the full-year result to be released on Monday.

"We're targeting (profit) numbers that are higher than in 2008," he said.

"All of our units are poised for growth, except for electronics."

The government announced on Tuesday that Philippine exports plunged 40.4 percent year on year to $2.7 billion in December on the back of the global slowdown.

Export receipts for the whole of 2008 were down 2.9 percent from a year earlier to $49.02 billion.