Gokongwei group goes 'head on' digital to keep up with pandemic


Posted at Jun 15 2020 10:56 AM | Updated as of Jun 15 2020 02:53 PM

Gokongwei group goes 'head on' digital to keep up with pandemic 1
JG Summit CEO Lance Gokongwei is shown in this file photo taken at an Airbus and Cebu Pacific event on Jan. 31, 2019. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file​

MANILA -- The Gokongwei group is accelerating the digitization of its businesses as the coronavirus requires consumers to keep apart physically and spend carefully, its CEO said Monday.

During the 11-week lockdown of Metro Manila and urban areas, JG Summit worked out a "contactless" experience at Cebu Pacific and ramped up online delivery services for Robinsons Supermarket and Southstar Drug, said CEO Lance Gokongwei.

"The COVID crisis has merely accelerated and reinforced what we have to do. We just have to move in a quicker manner and dive head on. There's no other way about it," Gokongwei told Market Edge on ANC.

Shares of JG Summit have recovered in recent weeks. Gokongwei said he was "fundamentally optimistic" about a rebound.

There will be a "strong recovery" in 2021 and by the latter part of 2022, the conglomerate could be back to early 2020 levels, he said.

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As the Philippines eased an 11-week lockdown of the capital last June 1, JG Summit's Cebu Pacific gradually resumed flights and Robinsons Malls reopened at limited capacity and with strict health protocols.

The conglomerate founded by the late industrialist John Gokongwei also includes snack food maker Universal Robina Corp, Robinsons Land and Robinsons Bank. It also has stakes in PLDT Inc and Manila Electric Co.

Uncertainty over jobs and the pandemic forced consumers to be thrifty and spend mostly on essentials. They are also flocking to larger stores, less frequently and with bigger shopping carts, he said.

"Business has been extremely challenging at this time," he said. "We're seeing, clearly, the effects of the necessary measures on a lot of our businesses."

"People are more careful about their spending," he said.

While there's "inherent demand," airlines and travel will take "a long time" to recover," he said.

Key to restoring consumer confidence in travel is assuring them of safety. At Cebu Pacific, air inside its jets is replaced 20 times an hour and filters screen 99.9 percent of microbes, he said.