One of the Philippines’ largest conglomerates is banking on its diverse strengths to take advantage of the country’s continued positive growth prospects.
SM Investments Corporation (SM) finds itself in a solid leadership position with the Philippines’ economic growth sustainably fueled by increasing urbanization and an expanding middle class. SM’s interests are spread across the financial services, property, and retail sectors. It is focused on serving customers, innovation, leveraging synergies across all business units, and pursuing expansion both organically and through strategic partnerships.
In a highly competitive arena where an enterprise is only as good as its last fin ancial statement, SM sustained growth by ending the previous fiscal year with a consolidated net income of PHP28.4 billion (US$600.4 million). The year 2015 marked an important milestone as the conglomerate celebrated its 1Oth anniversary as a publicly listed firm on the Philippine Stock Exchange. From an initial offering of PHP184 (US$3.88) per share, adjusted for stock dividends in 2005, SM closed at PHP864 (US$18.23) at the end of 2015, representing growth of 369.6 percent or a compound annual growth rate of 16.7 percent a year, creating significant value for its shareholders.
Solid Enterprise-Wide Growth
For the first quarter of 2016, the company posted a 12 percent growth in recurring net income, with consolidated net income at PHP7 billion (US$147.7 million). “SM’s underlying growth in the first quarter continues to be solid with the sustained expansion of the Philippine economy,” states Jose T. Sio, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of SM, adding that in terms of strategies, the focus remains on growing its core businesses of retail, financial services, and property domestically.
With PHP211.4 billion (US$4.46 billion) in consolidated sales in 2015, its retail arm, SM Retail is aggressively expanding its nationwide footprint through multiple formats. Last year saw the opening of 39 new stores under SM Markets and three new stores under THE SM STORE, its nonfood retail business bringing the total department stores to 53 by the end of 2015. SM also announced the merger of its retail assets to make the unit larger and more diverse.
In banking, customer focus and industry growth have made BDO Unibank and China Bank the largest and 7th-largest banks in the country, respectively. As of the end of 2015, BDO delivered a record net income of PHP25 billion (US$527.4 million),
driven organically by above-industry average loan growth, and inorganically with the consolidation of One Network Bank. China Bank reported a net interest growth of 7.1 percent to PHP15.1 billion (US$318.5 million), with net income grow ing by 9.5 percent to PHP5.6 billion (US$118.1 million). Both banks remain well capitalized with total assets of PHP2 trillion (US$42.2 billion) for BDO and PHP526.8 billion (US$11.1 billion) for China Bank.
In property, SM Prime Holdings, SM’s property arm, continues to embark on aggressive land banking activities to lock in future values and expand the group’s portfolio. “We are finding new opportunities for growth in integrated lifestyle property development,” shares Cora Guidote, Senior Vice President for Investor Relations.
“Integrated developments allow communities better access to infrastructure and master-planned properties for greater mobility, round-the-clock security, service and convenience.” She added that its recently opened anchor development SM Seaside City sits on a 30-hectare complex in the province of Cebu that will eventually replicate its Mall of Asia (MOA) development located in the Philippine capital. “We have a masterplan to develop the property, which will accommodate similar features to what we have in MOA complex, like a convention center, the Arena, office and residential buildings,and hotels,” she explains.
Beyond Home Shores
With the looming full integration under the ASEAN Economic Community, SM is seriously broadening its international footprint. Its banking business saw BDO Unibank expanding into Hong Kong, on top of its 26 overseas remittance and representative offices across Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East. The bank has also forged a partnership with Nomura Holdings to explore potential areas of collaboration, covering retail, asset management, and wholesale.
Like its Philippine malls, SM sees its growing retail presence in China as a catalyst for the development of communities. “We are invested in China through SM Prime where we have six malls,” discloses Guidote. “We recently opened SM Zibo in 2015 in the heart of Shandong province. This year, we will open our biggest mall in Tianjin with a gross floor area of 564,819 square meters,”she adds.
With regional integration, competition is bound to become even more intense across all of the markets SM serves. The conglomerate, however,remains confident in its position in the long run. “For SM, market leadership is but a consequence of the hard work and the scale of resources we have poured into the country. With the new administration aiming for more inclusive growth through increased infrastructure spending, greater support for agriculture, increased foreign direct investments, and higher fiscal spending in provincial areas, particularly in Mindanao—all these can only be good not just for SM but for the whole country,” ends Sio.
Forbes Asia/ Advertorial