MANILA, MARCH 29, 2007 (STAR) By Zinnia B. Dela Peña - Amid a buoyant property market driven by steady demand from overseas Filipino workers, Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) has lined up 33 new projects this year which include 27 residential developments throughout the country, several office buildings catering to the business process outsourcing business, the grand makeover of the Ayala Center, a regional mall in Pampanga and the expansion of existing malls.

This is the most number of projects that ALI is launching in one year, signifying its confidence in the country’s economy.

For this year, the company is spending at least P16.2 billion compared with only P13.7 billion in 2006. More than half of the programmed capital budget or 55-percent accounts for the residential segment while 34 percent will go to the construction of shopping malls.

"The property sector has been gathering momentum and we believe this development will sustain and support the growth of our traditional customer bases.

Substantial growth in the volume and value of OFW remittances has created additional housing and retail demand and represents a long-term secular trend that should continue in the foreseeable future," said ALI chairman Fernando Zobel De Ayala during the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday.

Zobel De Ayala said ALI will tap into new, attractive growth markets by expanding into new geographies, strengthening its distribution channels and creating a wide-range of products across a broad set of price points.

ALI president Jimmy Ayala, said: "We are now in an ideal position: well placed to continue to deliver near-term results and on the cusp of moving to a higher trajectory of long-term growth."

Ayala said the company’s 27 residential projects, which include new phases in existing developments, will offer about 7,300 units or 55 percent higher than the 4,700 units launched in 2006. Among the new areas for its residential developments include Antipolo, Bulacan and Pampanga.

Ayala said ALI’s shopping center gross leasable area is seen to increase by over 70 percent in five years by the end of 2008 while its office GLA portfolio is seen to grow nearly four-fold in five years by 2008.

Trinoma in Quezon City, Greenbelt 5 and an expansion area of Ayala Center Cebu ‑ are all set to partially open this year, Ayala said.

He said the planned shopping mall in Angeles, Pampanga will add 70,000 square meters of gross leaseable area (GLA).

Plans are also underway for the redevelopment of Ayala Center into a world-class retail and business destination.

Miriam O. Katigbak, ALI executive vice-president and head of signature projects-strategic landbank management group, said the Ayala Center makeover will be done in three phases over a period of 8 to 10 years. Initial plans include the development of BPO office buildings and three hotels (two of which are in partnership with Kingdom Hotel Investments of Saudi-Arabia).

Meanwhile, ALI’s BPO flagship development ‑ the UP North Science and Technology Park, is expected to add 110,000 square meters of GLA which shall increase its BPO GLA by 305 percent. The construction of a new stand-alone building in Dela Rosa, Makati, on the other hand, is seen to add 47,000 square meters of GLA to the company’s BPO portfolio when it opens in 2008.

By end-2008, office and shopping GLA portfolio will increase to 500,000 square meters.

ALI senior vice-president and chief finance officer Jaime Ysmael said funding for its capex is all covered. "We are sitting on total cash of P9.5 billion and we also have the proceeds from our pre-selling activities. We will have additional debt, but it is not that significant," he said.

ALI, the property arm of conglomerate Ayala Corp., posted a net income of P3.9 billion last year or an increase of 7 percent from the 2005 figure.

During the meeting, shareholders approved the board’s declaration of a 20-percent stock dividend, an increase in its authorized capital stock to P20 billion from P12 billion. The record and payment dates for the stock dividend would be fixed after the Securities and Exchange Commission approves the capital hike.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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