PH reports first three local cases of Omicron

The Philippines reported its first three local cases of the Omicron variant as per an announcement by acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles.

Two of the patients in question are from Bicol: a 27-year-old female and a 46-year-old male who tested positive on December 14 and 15 respectively. The other patient is a 42-year-old male from Metro Manila who was found to be positive on December 3.

Although all three patients have since recovered, authorities continue to trace their close contacts.

Seven additional imported cases of the Omicron variant have also been detected of which six are returning overseas Filipinos and one is a Malaysian national.

Three of the cases arrived from the United States via Philippine Airlines flight PR 103 and PR 127 on December 15 and 16 respectively. Two arrived from the United Kingdom via connecting flights of Emirates Airlines flight EK 332 and Singapore Airlines flight SQ 910 on December 9 and 15 respectively. One case arrived from the United Arab Emirates via Philippine Airlines flight PR 659 on December 19 and the last arrived from Ghana through a connecting flight of Qatar Airways flight QR 930 on December 14.

Dr. Guido David of private polling, research, and consultation firm OCTA Research previously pointed out that the COVID-19 positivity and reproduction rate was rising in recent days. As per OCTA Research, the COVID-19 reproduction rate in Metro Manila has risen to 2.19 compared to 0.85 just four days ago.

The Philippines reported 2,961 new COVID-19 cases today after reporting 1,623 new cases yesterday to end a month of sub-1,000 daily COVID-19 cases.

NCR under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15

The National Capital Region (NCR) is to be placed under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15 following a recent sharp surge in COVID-19 cases.

Acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles announced the decision at a press briefing in Davao City, citing that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) projected a further increase in new cases over the coming days.

Under Alert Level 3, establishments or activities are only allowed to operate or be undertaken at a maximum of 30% indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals and 50% outdoor venue capacity.

After a month of relatively low daily infections reported, the Philippines logged 1,623 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, December 30, 2021 and 2,961 on Friday, December 31, 2021.

Megaworld: Blue-chip bargain buy?

Megaworld Corporation (MEG) is a bargain buy given its position as one of the country’s top property developers, its sizable and geographically-diversified portfolio of high quality real estate developments, and its stable financial position notwithstanding its current 33.47% discount to our calculated fair value. However, interested investors should also consider the potential threats to MEG’s future growth such as any possible disruptions to vital company operations as a result of the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the highly competitive nature of the local real estate market.

Source: Megaworld Corporation

Company Overview

MEG, incorporated on August 24, 1989, is primarily engaged in the design, construction, and management of large-scale mixed-use planned communities and townships. Its current portfolio includes an assortment of condominiums, subdivision lots, townhouses, hotels, offices, and retail spaces.

For the year ended December 31, 2020, it reported PhP43.5 billion in sales, making it the fourth largest Philippine property developer in terms of revenues.

TOP STOCKHOLDERS

No.NameSharesOwnership (%)
1Alliance Global Group, Inc.11,590,219,05835.80%
2PCD Nominee Corporation (Filipino)6,943,582,40221.45%
3New Town Land Partners, Inc.5,066,514,39015.65%
4PCD Nominee Corporation (Non-Filipino)3,741,380,18611.56%
5Alliance Global Group, Inc.2,500,000,0007.72%
Source: List of Top 100 Stockholders (Common Shares) as of September 30, 2021

Key Personnel

NamePosition
Andrew L. TanPresident, Chief Executive Officer
Jesus B. VarelaLead Independent Director
Kingson U. SianExecutive Director
Lourdes T. Gutierrez-AlfonsoChief Operating Officer
Kevin Andrew L. TanExecutive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer
Francisco C. CanutoChief Financial Officer, Treasurer
Source: 2021 General Information Sheet

Investment Considerations

MERITS

Leading local property developer

For the year ended December 31, 2020, MEG posted sales of PhP43.5 billion even despite the COVID-19 pandemic, making it the fourth largest Philippine property developer in terms of revenue behind only Ayala Land, Inc. with PhP96.3 billion, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. with PhP83.9 billion, and DMCI Holdings, Inc. with PhP70.8 billion.

MEG’s current property portfolio is also one of the largest in the country with locations in key Philippine economic hubs such as Metro Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo. Some of MEG’s largest completed developments include:

EASTWOOD CITY

Eastwood City, home to more than 25,000 residents, is an 18.5-hectare community property in Libis, Quezon City with three malls, 19 completed luxury condominium towers, 10 first-class corporate office buildings, and a modern IT park.

FORBES TOWN CENTER

Forbes Town Center is a 5-hectare development in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila home to 12 residential towers with approximately 3,500 residential units and host to Forbes Town Road, a retail strip with 37 restaurants and shops. The township is also connected to Burgos Circle, a popular leisure spot in Bonifacio Global City.

MCKINLEY HILL

McKinley Hill is a 50-hectare community township in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Metro Manila consisting of office, residential, retail, educational, entertainment, and recreational spaces. The township is also home to the McKinley Hill Cyberpark which is a PEZA-designated IT special economic zone.

UPTOWN BONIFACIO

Uptown Bonifacio is a 15.4-hectare property located at the heart of Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Metro Manila housing Uptown Place Mall, a high-end commercial center, a selection of top-grade office spaces, and a residential zone. It is also located near St. Luke’s Medical Center, one of the country’s most advanced healthcare institutions.

ILOILO BUSINESS PARK

Iloilo Business Park is a 72-hectare mixed-planned community located in Mandurriao, Iloilo. It is home to The Street of Festive Walk, a 1.1-kilometer retail strip and 5 residential condominium developments.

Forward-looking expansion plans

Despite its position as one of the country’s top property developers, MEG continues to aggressively expand its portfolio with a selection of properties yet to be completed located in areas beyond the comparatively more developed Metro Manila. Some of these properties include:

SUNTRUST ECOTOWN

Suntrust Ecotown is a mixed-use development located on 350-hectares of land in Tanza, Cavite which MEG hopes would become a major hub for world-class light to medium export-oriented industries and residential, commercial, and institutional establishments south of Metro Manila. MEG is allotting 111 hectares to the potential industrial park, an additional 40 hectares for the expansion of the industrial park as well as the integration of a hotel and various commercial, retail, and leisure spaces, and 200 hectares for future development which may include residential and recreational facilities.

NORTHILL GATEWAY

Northill Gateway is a 53-hectare property that will rise in the northern part of Bacolod. MEG plans to construct a commercial town center, upscale residential villages, and mixed-use office and retail developments on the property.

WESTSIDE CITY

Westside City is a planned 31-hectare leisure and entertainment township located in Entertainment City, Parañaque, Metro Manila. The township will be the home of upscale residential condominiums, a luxury mall, a selection of international hotels, as well as the Philippines’ first Grand Opera House.

Stable financial position

As of September 30, 2021, MEG has over PhP28.9 billion in cash and cash equivalents, more than enough to cover the current portion of its interest-bearing loans and borrowings amounting to PhP12.4 billion.

Furthermore, MEG’s poorest performing net income year over the past five (5) years was only the PhP9.9 billion it reported in 2020 due to the global economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the period beginning 2016 to 2020, its average was PhP13.5 billion. This is more than enough to cover the PhP52.0 billion MEG expects in maturities on its interest-bearing loans and borrowings and bonds and notes payable over the next five years as per MEG’s 2020 annual report.

MEG’s financial soundness indicators are further broken down in the table below.

Ratioas of September 30, 2021
Current Ratio3.34
Acid Test Ratio1.55
Debt-to-Equity Ratio0.42
Solvency Ratio0.17
Interest Rate Coverage Ratio3.92
Source: Q3 2021 Quarterly Report
Discounted price

MEG’s closing price of PhP3.06 as of December 22, 2021 is 33.47% below the calculated median PhP4.60 fair value of MEG as computed below. This meets our minimum required 30.0% margin-of-safety. The median was employed in lieu of the average to provide a more stringent indicative valuation given that with regards to MEG’s indicative fair value the median is lower than the average.

ValuationPrice
Book Value Per SharePhP5.86
Relative Value, Peer P/E AveragePhP6.63
Relative Value, Peer P/E MedianPhP3.34
10.0x 2020 EPSPhP2.90
AveragePhP4.68
30% Margin-of-SafetyPhP3.28
MedianPhP4.60
30% Margin-of-SafetyPhP3.22

MEG’s indicative fair value was calculated by finding the average and median of the company’s book value per share, relative valuation based on the average and median P/E of local industry peers, and 10.0x its 2020 earnings per share (EPS).

MEG’s book value per share was based on the PhP5.86 it reported as of September 30, 2021.

MEG’s relative value of PhP6.63 and PhP3.34 are based on the average and median P/E respectively of the local industry peers listed below. The EPS employed to calculate the final relative value was MEG’s 2020 EPS given that 2020 was the company’s poorest performing year in the last five years due to the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ayala Land, Inc.Ayala Land, Inc. is the real estate arm of the Ayala Corporation. It was the largest Philippine property company in terms of revenues for the year 2020.
DMC Holdings, Inc.DMC Holdings, Inc. is a holding company consolidated the construction, property, mining, power generation, and water concession interests of the Consunji family.
Robinsons Land CorporationRobinsons Land Corporation is the real estate investment arm of JG Summit Holdings, Inc. It has five main business units: commercial centers, residential, office buildings, hotels and resorts, and industrial and integrated developments.
SM Prime Holdings, Inc.SM Prime Holdings, Inc. is the real estate investment arm of SM Investments Corporation. It has four main business units: malls, residential, commercial, and hotels and convention centers.
Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc.Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc. is the holding company for the Vista Group’s property interests. Vista Land and Lifescapes, Inc. mainly operates through its residential, commercial, and recreational segments.

MEG’s price at ten times its 2020 EPS falls to PhP2.90. MEG’s EPS for the year 2020 was chosen to provide a “weakest year” valuation given that this was its poorest performing year over the last five years.

RISKS

PH property market still largely vulnerable to economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic

The continued threat of business disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is not expected to subside any time soon especially with the recent spread of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) COVID-19 variant.

As such, any possible disruptions to the construction sector may lead to delays in property turnover and generally weaker economic conditions may make it more difficult for MEG to sell its properties at ideal prices.

Highly competitive local property landscape

The local property market is also highly competitive and MEG must remain strategic in its approach to expansion if it plans to maintain any of its current advantages. Moreover, property prices in Metro Manila have become increasingly less affordable which may lead to future difficulties in MEG’s ability to acquire lots in the capital city at reasonable prices for its future development plans.

NEWS ALERT: PH detects first two cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Philippines has detected its first two cases of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant from travelers who recently arrived from Japan and Nigeria.

The two cases were detected from 48 samples sequenced on December 14, 2021 as per the Department of Health (DOH) in a statement released at noon today.

The first patient is from a Filipino who returned from an overseas trip to Japan last December 1, 2021. As per the DOH, the patient is currently asymptomatic despite showing symptoms of colds and cough upon arrival.

The second patient is a Nigerian national who arrived from Nigeria last November 30, 2021. As per the DOH, the patient is also currently asymptomatic.

The DOH assured that both patients are currently isolated in a facility managed by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ).

NEWS ROUNDUP: Omicron, BSP expected to keep policy rates low

DOH: Omicron has “high chance” of spreading to the Philippines

In a Laging Handa briefing conducted last Saturday, December 11, 2021, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire acknowledged the high chance of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant entering the country: “From the start, sinabi na natin, hindi naman po natin masasabi at hindi natin sasabihin din na hindi makakapasok. Ang pinag-uusapan natin diyan: kung kailan.”

(From the start, as we have acknowledged, we could not definitely say that it would not be able to enter. The question has been when it will enter.)

“Mataas po ang tiyansa na maaaring makapasok dito sa atin at tayo naman po ay nag-pre-prepare,” Undersecretary Vergeire added, urging continued adherence to health and safety protocols.

(There’s a big chance it will enter the country although we continue to prepare.)

The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in South Africa on November 24, 2021. The World Health Organization (WHO) designated Omicron a variant of concern on November 26, 2021.

On December 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an updated science brief regarding the Omicron variant reiterating the following considerations as previously acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • It remains unclear if the Omicron variant is more transmissible than the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant, although the CDC noted that the Omicron variant had become the predominant variant in South Africa where the variant was first discovered.
  • It remains unclear if infection with the Omicron variant leads to more severe disease compared to other previous variants, although preliminary information from South Africa noted no unusual symptoms for those infected with the Omicron variant.
  • It remains unclear if currently available COVID-19 vaccines are less capable at neutralizing the Omicron variant.

On December 12, 2021, the Philippines reported 402 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total active COVID-19 cases to 11,255.

BSP expected to keep policy rates low amid Omicron uncertainty

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is widely expected to keep key policy rates low ahead of its policy-setting meeting on December 16, 2021 (Thursday).

This comes as the country braces for the potential entry of the Omicron variant which has spread to more than 50 countries since it was discovered on November 24, 2021.

The BSP has kept the interest rate on its overnight reverse repurchase facility at 2.0% since November 20, 2020 to help curb the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Omicron, PH Economic Recovery, PSE rebounds

Omicron threat looms despite lower daily cases

The Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in South Africa on November 24, 2021. The Omicron variant was subsequently designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 26, 2021.

A statement released by the WHO last November 28, 2021 suggests that the Omicron variant may be more transmissible even compared to the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant which caused a global COVID-19 case surge in mid-2021. However, it is still largely unclear if the Omicron variant causes a more severe disease compared to previous variants or if it is capable of rendering current COVID-19 vaccines ineffective.

As of December 6, 2021, no cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the Philippines although twelve (12) COVID-positive samples were flagged to undergo genomic sequencing.

On December 8, 2021, the Philippines reported 370 new COVID-19 cases bringing the country’s total active cases to 12,510 as per the Department of Health (DOH), a significant decline since the case surge experienced last August to September 2021 even despite looser mobility restrictions. The country has also administered 94,236,990 COVID-19 vaccine doses in total as of December 8, 2021.

In a media forum held on December 6, 2021, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire claimed that the Philippines and the NCR were at minimal risk and low risk for COVID-19 respectively as the two-week growth rate stood at -57% and the average daily attack rate stood at 0.67 cases for every 100,000 individuals.

Philippine economy showing signs of recovery

Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP) managed to grow by 7.1% in the third quarter of 2021 even despite a COVID-19 case surge due to the spread of the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant last August and September 2021. In its October 2021 East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, the World Bank raised its GDP growth forecast for the Philippines to 5.3% on the strength of improved local economic conditions given progressing vaccinations and declining COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Philippine headline inflation eased to 4.2% in November 2021 compared to 4.6% in October 2021 led by the slowdown in inflation for the food and non-alcoholic beverages index to 3.9% for the month of November 2021 against 5.3% for the month prior. This is slightly above the 3.0% (+/- 1.0%) annual headline inflation rate targeted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Last November 18, 2021, the BSP also decided to keep the interest rate on its overnight reverse repurchase facility at 2.0% and interest rates on its overnight deposit and lending facilities at 1.5% and 2.5% respectively. As per its Q3 2021 Inflation Report, the BSP expressed its intentions of maintain an accommodative stance on monetary policy so long as it is appropriate given the manageable inflation environment and uncertain growth outlook.

Philippine Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) grew by 7.1% for the third quarter of 2021 against 7.3% for the quarter prior on higher household spending on food and non-alcoholic beverages (+3.0%), miscellaneous goods and services (+8.4%), transport (+13.5%), health (+18.8%), and education (+14.5%) as consumer confidence increased alongside loosening mobility restrictions.

Philippine national debt grew to PhP12.0 trillion in October 2021 from PhP10.3 trillion in January 2021 as the National Government sought to reinforce its COVID-19 war-chest.

Bourse recovers as Omicron fears subside

On December 9, 2021, the Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PSEi) improved by 179.73 or 2.6% to 7,234.92 compared to 7,055.19 on December 3, 2021, the last day of trading the week prior. The rebound comes after several days of volatility as investors reacted to Omicron variant fears.

Total approved foreign investments also declined to PhP16.82 billion in the third quarter of 2021 against PhP22.50 billion in the quarter prior (down 25.2%) as foreign investors remained cautious despite improving economic conditions given the approaching 2022 Philippine presidential elections.

Featured Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention