Thursday, 30 April 2009

Philippines' mall company bucks slowdown, posts 15% sales jump

Bloomberg, with Jenniffer B. Austria
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=news4_april29_2009

SM Prime Holdings Inc., the Philippines’ largest shopping mall operator, said sales growth accelerated in the first quarter, and that it will build malls in China as part of a P12-billion expansion plan this year.

Sales probably rose more than 15 percent in the first three months, SM Prime executive vice president Jeffrey Lim said yesterday.

The company last year said sales grew 7.7 percent to P3.82 billion in the first quarter.

“The opening of new malls helped increased sales,” SM Prime president Hans Sy said, adding that remittances from Filipino expatriates and the expansion of business process outsourcing companies helped support sales at its malls.

“Even same-store sales grew. Consumers are still spending,” he said.

SM Prime, founded by Henry Sy, the nation’s richest tycoon, last year increased its mall space by 9 percent to 46.27 million square feet after adding three branches and upgrading two centers. It has 33 malls in the Philippines and will open its 34th, in Naga province, next month.

The company will spend P12 billion this year, P5.5 billion of which would finance the construction of three shopping malls in China, Lim said. The company would open one mall every year in China beginning 2010, he said.

The three China malls under construction are those in Suzhou (opening in 2010), in Chongquing (opening in 2011), and in Zibo (opening in 2012). SM Prime already has three malls in Xiamen, Chengdu and Jinjiang.

“We are building the brand equity and understanding the market in China,” Sy said.

“We have to strengthen our organization before we begin building two to three malls a year.”

The SM Naga aside, SM Prime is also opening two more malls in the Philippines this year: SM Pamplona in Las Piñas and SM Rosario in Cavite. It is also set to open Sky Garden at its SM North Edsa, which will add 34,000 square meters to the mall, and the 17,000-square-meter addition to its SM Supercenter in Rosales, Pangasinan.

SM Prime yesterday approved a cash dividend of 24 centavos a share, equivalent to P3.2 billion, to be paid on or before June 23 to shareholders on record as of May 28.

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