BIZ BUZZ: Boosting Subic’s strategic seaport
Harbour Center Port Terminal Inc. of businessman Reghis Romero II says its entry into the Subic Bay Freeport is a positive development that will enhance and modernize the noncontainerized cargo facilities of the former US Navy base—a development that runs parallel with the expected growth of the country’s northern sections.
In particular, Harbour Centre says its entry into the special economic zone will enable the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to double the port’s bulk and breakbulk cargo volume within the next few years. This, in turn, will result in the influx of the needed capital equipment and information technology infrastructure necessary for the port’s efficient operations.
Customized for port, yard and cargo handling operations, Harbour Centre’s equipment and infrastructure will expand the port’s capacity while improving all aspects of operational efficiencies, the company said.
Its officials told Biz Buzz that the project will bring in modern cargo handling equipment, and much-needed automation, to be implemented system-wide from berthing to delivery, to speed up both cargo and ship turnaround times.
The goal of the port modernization is to attract new locators and investors, raise foreign direct investments (which, it is hoped, will further boost the country’s dollar reserves) and, most importantly, boost economic growth in the Subic Bay Freeport, and integrate the entire northern Philippines into the rest of the Asian and global value chains.
Subic’s port has long needed improvements to become a truly world-class facility worthy of being called an international shipping gateway.
Romero envisions Harbour Centre’s development of Subic Port to complement Clark which, taken together because of their proximity to each other, are expected to be the new economic hub of Luzon.
Now the question, of course, is will the billionaire businessman be able to execute his plans without any hitches? Abangan!
—Daxim L. Lucas
The country’s best banks
Just like in any annual beauty tilt, banks receiving honors have the bragging rights until the next pageant.
For this year, Citi was hailed the “Best International Bank” in the Philippines at the Asiamoney Best Bank Awards 2023, winning the highly contested category for the fifth time.
Among local players, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. was at the top of the heap, regaining the “best domestic bank” title it last won in 2021.
Citi is the only foreign firm on the government’s market maker list. It acted as a joint lead manager and joint bookrunner for the Philippine government’s maiden sale of $2.25 billion in sustainable global bonds in March 2022, the first such sizable postpandemic offering in Asia.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also mandated Citi to lead various bond issuances last year.
Citi acted as joint lead manager for the issuance of $3.5 billion in global benchmark bonds, its fifth consecutive five-year US dollar bond issuance mandate from the ADB since October 2019.
“Citi has been in the Philippines for over 120 years now and our focus and strategy hasn’t changed, which is to deliver excellent client service and responsibly provide financial services to enable growth and economic progress in the country,” Citi Philippines country officer Paul Favila said.
Ninety percent of the top 20 companies in the country by listed market capitalization bank with Citi, which settles around $5 billion worth of transfers daily. Since 2020, it has raised over $10 billion for Philippines issuers from global capital markets for both sovereign and corporate issuers.
Metrobank, for its part, is enjoying a “banner year” given its healthy loan growth, improving margins, robust fee income and swelling user base for digital apps, alongside controlled operating expenses and lower provisions, thanks to stable asset quality, the publication said.
“The bank’s gross loan portfolio rose 14 percent year on year, outpacing the industry average of roughly 11 percent. Growth in corporate and commercial loans was even stronger at 15.2 percent. In part, it is a sign that the economy’s post-COVID rebound is gaining momentum as businesses expand their inventories and resume investment spending,” Asiamoney said.
Other 2023 awardees are: BDO Capital, best investment bank; Security Bank, best corporate bank; RCBC, best bank for digital solutions; UnionBank, best bank for small and medium enterprises; Bank of the Philippine Islands, best bank for ESG (environment, social and governance); BDO Unibank, best bank for CSR (corporate social responsibility); and Country Builders Bank (one of the country’s largest rural banks), the bank to watch.
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