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Cash remittances hit record-high $2.6B in March amid weaker peso

MANILA — Taking advantage of the peso trading at over 10-year low levels, Filipinos living or working overseas sent more money home in March, such that cash remittances that month hit a record-high of $2.615 billion.

Cash coursed through banks last March exceeded by 10.7 percent the $2.362 billion in remittances a year ago, reversing the 1.4-percent year-on-year decline during the same month last year, the latest Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas data released Monday showed.

March marked the 14th straight month that cash remittances breached the $2-billion level.

The March figure surpassed the previous high of $2.559 billion recorded last December. Remittances historically peaked during the month of December amid the Christmas holiday season.

To recall, the peso slid to the 50:$1 level since mid-February before returning to the 49:$1 level in April.

As such, a weaker peso translated into more value for the local currency when exchanged with dollars.

In a statement, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said remittances from land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) rose 12.8 percent year-on-year to $2.1 billion in March, while those of sea-based OFWs increased 3.4 percent to $500 million.

Tetangco said the top five countries that contributed the bulk of remittances growth last March were the United States, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Hong Kong.

At the end of the first three months, cash remittances reached $6.953 billion, up 7.7 percent from $6.457 billion last year, a faster year-on-year growth compared with 3.2 percent a year ago, BSP data showed.

During the first quarter, cash sent home by land-based OFWs jumped 10.4 percent year-on-year to $5.6 billion, while money from sea-based OFWs declined 2 percent to $1.4 billion, Tetangco said.

Nearly four-fifths of the first-quarter cash remittances were from OFWs in Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UAE, the United Kingdom and the US, Tetangco added.

For 2017, the BSP had projected a 4-percent growth in remittances.

In 2016, cash remittances totaled a record $26.9 billion, up 5 percent from $25.607 billion in 2015.

Remittances are the largest source of foreign exchange income for the country, helping insulate the domestic economy from external shocks by ensuring the steady supply of dollars into the system.

These cash transfers are also a major driver for domestic consumption, which contributes to robust economic growth.

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Japan bank expresses support for PHL infra program

Japan-led Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) has expressed intent to support the government's ambitious infrastructure spending program, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Sunday.

In an emailed statement, the DOF said officials of MUFG led by Managing Executive Officer and CEO for Asia and Oceania Takayoshi Futae said they "want to work together" with the country's infrastructure spending and "will help further expand the development of the Philippines."

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Futae met during the 50th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) earlier this month, along with other officials such as MUFG CEO and Head of Asia Yasutaka Suehiro, and Head of Financial Institutions Frederic Cabay.

The government plans to pour as much as P8.2 trillion to finance the country's infrastructure needs over the next six years, with P860.7 billion allocated for big-ticket projects this year alone.

"We also want to develop medium-sized companies by encouraging them to partner with equally sized Japanese companies for more inclusivity in our development," Dominguez told the Japanese officials.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia earlier said the Philippines and Japan have already agreed to implement at least three mega infrastructure rail projects.

Japan also in January pledged a total of ¥1 trillion worth of ODA and private sector investments, aimed at creating business opportunities in the Philippines over the next five years.

The MUFG already has a presence in the Philippines, after acquiring a 20-percent equity stake in Security Bank Corp. through its commercial banking unit Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. —ALG, GMA News

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PLDT net income drops 20% in Q1 as wireless revenue shrinks

MANILA -- Philippine telecom giant PLDT said Friday its net income in the first three months of 2017 dropped 20% on the year to 4.97 billion pesos ($99.9 million) as wireless revenue kept shrinking and impairment losses from Rocket Internet continued to hamper the bottom line.

The impairment losses from PLDT's investment in the German e-commerce company reached 500 million pesos in the period, while higher expenses also hindered the telecom's net profit.

PLDT's share price dipped by as much as 4% at the time of the earnings release, but the stock recovered quickly as Chairman and CEO Manuel Pangilinan gave a positive outlook on the company's prospects. The shares closed at 1,755 pesos, up 1.9% from Thursday.

"In the medium term, as far as we could see, the growth of the industry will come from the [fixed-line business], and the wireless would grow at low single-digit numbers," Pangilinan said Friday.

PLDT's net income plunged by as much as 49% in the third quarter of 2016, but an internal reorganization and a shift in focus to the fixed-line business has ameliorated the slump.

Service revenue continued to decline, falling 7% on the year to 35.6 billion pesos. PLDT's wireless segment dropped 16% to 20.8 billion pesos, but the fixed-line business grew 10% to 16.9 billion pesos. On a quarter-to-quarter basis, service revenue dropped 1%.

"For now, we are in this sort of golden age of fixed [line]," the CEO said.

Household and business subscribers, excluding international, now comprise 52% of the company's revenue base, a proportion forecast to reach 56% by 2019.

PLDT shifted focus to fixed line following the exodus of over 5 million customers in 2015 to key rival Globe Telecom, which leads in offering expanded data services. PLDT controls around 70% of the fixed-line market.

Pangilinan said the first-quarter performance puts the company on track to meet its core profit target of 21.5 billion pesos for the year, up slightly from last year's 20.2 billion pesos. Barring "unusual circumstances," PLDT is poised to earn more than 5 billion pesos for each succeeding quarter of 2017, he said.

MIKHAIL FLORES, Nikkei staff writer http://asia.nikkei.com

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Metro Manila subway deal 'sealed' with Japan: Tugade

MANILA - The government said it has 'sealed' the deal for the proposed Metro Manila subway system.
Transport Secretary Arturo Tugade announced that the Philippines and Japan agreed on the P300 billion project during the World Economic Forum in Cambodia.
Tugade said that the Philippines and Japan will sign the agreement this November during the ASEAN Summit in Manila.
Tugade also assured that the project will be transparent and the bidding will be conducted live for all to see.
Apart from the subway and other infrastructure projects, the Philippine economic delegation at the forum said that the Duterte administration also intended to bring down the cost of power in the Philippines.
They noted that the Philippines has one of the highest electricity rates in the region, and needed new investments in the energy sector.
Government economic managers also said that all infrastructure projects in the pipeline will be finished during Duterte's term.

Doris Bigornia, ABS-CBN News

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DENR chief Cimatu vows to protect environment, safeguard mining laws

Newly appointed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Wednesday pledged to protect the environment and safeguard mining laws, but asked for more time to study his new responsibilities as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

As chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the past, Cimatu said he remembered his role was to to protect the people and the land. Then, when he was designated by President Rodrigo Duterte as special envoy to overseas Filipino worker-refugees, his role was to protect the OFWs.

"My third 'P' as secretary of the DENR is to protect the environment and safeguard the mining laws that they should be implemented," Cimatu said in his remarks during the turnover ceremony of the DENR leadership in Quezon City.

He took over the helm of DENR from former Environment Secretary-designate Gina Lopez who was rejected by the bicameral Commission on Appointments

Cimatu noted his new job is far from his background and experience as a ranking military officer, and he asked that he be given enough time to learn how he can do his job properly.

"Please, excuse me if I may ask to be given time to scan and study the terrain," he said.

On the sidelines of the turnover rites, Cimatu doused speculations that he will serve to the interest of mining companies. "I will see to it what is in the law is followed," he said.

Cimatu addressed the employees of the DENR and asked them to work as a team.

"Please help me learn the ropes and earn your respect. We are all in this together," he said. — VDS, GMA News

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P27-B tax case filed vs Mighty, Biggest ever filed by BIR under Duterte regime

The owner and executives of homegrown cigarette manufacturer Mighty Corp. are facing yet another tax evasion case in the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) yesterday brought a criminal complaint against the owner and officials of the local cigarette manufacturer for allegedly avoiding the payment of P26.93 billion in excise taxes by using spurious tax stamps on its products.
This is the biggest of the 23 tax evasion cases filed by the BIR since President Duterte was sworn in nearly a year ago.

Sued were Mighty owner Alexander Wongchuking, also the company’s vice president and assistant corporate secretary; president Edilberto Adan, a retired Army general; executive vice president Oscar Barrientos, a former judge, and treasurer Ernesto Victa.
They were charged with violating Sections 263 and 265(c) of Republic Act No. 8424, or the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, which prohibits the “possession of articles subject to excise tax without payment of the tax, and false, counterfeit, restored or altered stamps.”
The complaint was filed barely two months after the BIR lodged a similar criminal case in the DOJ against them over Mighty’s alleged failure to settle P9.6 billion in excise taxes.
In a statement, Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar Dulay said the case stemmed from the raid conducted by officials of the Bureau of Customs and the BIR on Mighty’s two warehouses in San Ildefonso town, Bulacan province, on March 24.
After a thorough examination of the products, the tax bureau said it found out that the tax stamps attached on 536,000 cigarette packs that were contained in 1,072 master cases were counterfeit.
“The master cases containing the cigarettes with fake stamps were marked and seized. The stamps are fake since they did not contain one of the multilayered security features of a valid internal revenue stamp,” the BIR said.
As mandated by law, it said the tax stamps should have been attached on the cigarette packs at its factory in Barangay Tikay in Malolos City, also in Bulacan.
“Such failure to present the official delivery receipts showed that the cigarette packs in the subject warehouses did not come from the manufacturing plant in Barangay Tikay,” it said, adding that Mighty’s mere unexplained possession of the packs of cigarettes with fake internal revenue stamps was illegal and a violation of the tax code.

By: Marlon Ramos - Reporter / @MRamosINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer

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More Filipino men doing grocery shopping: study

MANILA - More Filipino men are doing grocery shopping, according to a study by Nielsen Philippines.

 

Data from the Nielsen Shopper Trends 2017 show males now make 40% of grocery shoppers in the Philippines, a 6% jump from last year's numbers.

"This is the first time that we're seeing it," Nielsen Philippines' Consumer Rights Executive Director, Carlos Santos, told ANC on Wednesday. "In the past, the levels were relatively stable but now we're seeing it growing."

Santos attributes the growing number of men doing grocery shopping to the openness and gender sensitivity of millennial husbands.

"They're definitely younger. They're married but they're younger -- a large proportion of the segment we call millennials," said Santos noting that these men also come from dual-income households. 

He added that the current dynamics between husbands and wives make space for more understanding on the side of men, especially when women could not go to the grocery due to work.

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News
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Pinoy coconut vodka-maker acquires Shaq-endorsed brand

MANILA - The Filipino-American entrepreneur who created the world’s first vodka distilled from coconut has acquired MEDEA Vodka, a spirit brand endorsed by American basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal.

Entrepreneur Rich Cabael, through his Bevriqo firm, has acquired MEDEA Vodka as he extended the company's portfolio of "innovative, high quality wine and spirit brands."

 

MEDEA Vodka, an ultra-premium vodka produced in partnership with one of the oldest and most respected distilleries in Europe, is known for its unique packaging featuring a one-of-a-kind, personally programmable LED display. 

"MEDEA Vodka is a valuable asset not just because of its award winning liquid and packaging technology, but because of its existing worldwide distribution network," Bevriqo said in a statement. 

"This move will greatly benefit the international expansion of our proudly Filipino brands, VuQo and Haliya, by giving us access to major distributors and retailers," it said.

Cabael's VuQo was the world’s first vodka distilled from coconut and was acknowledged as a nod to the local "lambanog." It was launched in Hollywood in 2009.

ABS-CBN News
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IMF sees robust PH economic growth

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) sees robust growth for the country this year and next, citing strong domestic demand, recovery in exports, and higher public spending.

According to its 2017 World Economic Outlook report, it expects Gross Domestic Product (GDP) maintained at 6.8 percent this year and even higher at 6.9 percent in 2018, still one of the fastest growing in Asia.

"(The Philippines) growth is projected to remain robust at 6.8 percent in 2017 and 6.9 percent in 2018, led by strong domestic demand and a recovery in exports. Higher commodity prices will push up higher inflation (3.6 percent in 2017 and 3.3 percent in 2018), although still within the BSP's target range of 3±1 percent," Shanaka Jay Peiris, IMF resident representative, said  in a statement.

"Public spending is expected to rise as the fiscal deficit target has been increased to 3 percent of GDP in 2017 and provide a stimulus to economic activity. The external position of the Philippines will continue to be comfortable," he said.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez had said the country's infrastructure remains below regional standards. The government currently spends 5.4 percent of its GDP on infrastructure.

On Tuesday, economic managers launched "Dutertenomics" an economic program that's anchored on building key infrastructure.

Dominguez said the proposed comprehensive tax reform bill IS a key factor to this economic agenda.

He described this as a "key link in the grand effort to break out from the cycle of low growth and build a dynamic and inclusive economy".

The IMF report said the Philippine economy will lead in terms of growth in the next two years in Southeast Asia, outpacing Vietnam,  Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia,

In emerging and developing Asia, the Philippines will grow faster than China, which is seen to grow at 6.6 percent this year and lower at 6.2 percent next year.

The IMF's projection for the country compares with the World Bank's 6.9 percent forecast this year, even higher than Asian Development Bank's  6.4 percent.

The growth forecasts fall within the government's goal of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent this year.

By Maricel Burgonio, CNN Philippines

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Another oil price rollback seen next week —DOE

Oil firms are expected to implement another round of rollback in the prices of petroleum products next week, the Department of Energy (DOE) said on Saturday.
"There will a rollback... 70 to 90 centavos for gasoline, diesel, and kerosene," Energy Undersecretary Felix Fuentebella said in a text message.
Estimated downward adjustments in pump prices may still change on Monday upon the completion of the whole week assestment of oil trading, Fuentebella noted.
He said the rollback is due to oversupply.
Latest data from the DOE show diesel prices in the country currently range from P27.75 to P32.96 per liter, and gasoline from P38.25 to P50.40 per liter. —ALG, GMA News

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