Empire East still keen on residential project with Japan’s Okada

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Andrew Tan. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada may have lost the group of taipan John Gokongwei as an ally in his proposed Philippine gaming hub but not Andrew Tan, whose residential arm Empire East Land Holdings Inc. is keen on pursuing the upscale residential component of the $2-billion entertainment center.

During his company’s stockholders meeting on Wednesday, ELI president Charlemagne Yu said there were “ongoing” discussions with the Okada group but ELI was waiting for the Japanese group to commit to the residential project independently of the gaming component.

Yu said ELI was closely watching developments with respect Okada’s project.

Based on an announcement in July last year, the plan was to jointly build a P45-billion upscale residential condominium complex in Entertainment City Manila, comprising more than 25 residential towers. This announcement was eclipsed when the Gokongwei group, through Robinsons Land Corp., announced a separate agreement with Okada involving all other components of the project.

The RLC-Okada partnership, however, recently fizzled out in the face of an ongoing probe by US authorities into allegations of improper payments made by Okada’s group to gain a foothold in the Philippines.

“We would like to know if they are willing to pursue the development of residential (projects) regardless of the outcome of the casino project,” Yu told reporters. Asked if the group was still keen on building 25 residential towers, Yu said nothing had been finalized yet.

The company plans to invest P5 billion each year for the next five years in its expansion program. The P25-billion five-year capital spending program is the biggest medium-term set by ELI so far.

“We think that we can beat the performance last year. If the first quarter is any indication, it’s even better. There’s money in the market and the economy is doing very well,” Yu said. Asked about indications for the second quarter, Yu said it’s “really good” and that sales were “very robust.”

“We’re surprised it’s still very good. Consumer confidence is high,” he said.

ELI’s consolidated net profit grew by 26-percent to P235.35 million in 2012. Consolidated revenues, composed of real estate sales, finance, commissions and other revenues went up by 29 percent to P2.52 billion from a year ago. Real estate sales went up by 40 percent last year while reservation sales reached P30 billion, up by 37-percent year-on-year.

As such, ELI is keen on rolling out more residential units this year than what was brought to the property market last year, Yu said. ELI launched over 2,000 new residential units in 12 towers last year.

Meanwhile, Yu assured the public that Empire East won’t be delisted from the stock market after the consolidation of all property units under the group of Andrew Tan into Megaworld Corp.

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