AUGUST 2, 2008
(STAR) BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET By Wilson Lee Flores - Why not invest your assets in the companies you really like? As Mae West said, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” — World’s wealthiest man, Warren Buffett

Ignore the politicians; it’s still a great time to invest in the Philippines!

First Pacific Group and PLDT/Smart chairman Manuel “Manny” V. Pangilinan is now buying hospitals nationwide and is emerging as the “Hospital King of the Philippines,” while “shopping mall king” Henry Sy of SM Group and BDO is buying banks and also, it seems, universities.

It is no secret that one of the goals of self-made taipan Henry Sy is to be No. 1 in Philippine banking with his BDO and China Banking Corporation to eclipse leaders Metrobank Group of George S.K. Ty and Bank of Philippine Islands of his former landlord, the Zobel-Ayala clan.

SM investing in Philippine education

Will Henry Sy and his family become leaders in Philippine education, invest their funds and outstanding management skills in order to help upgrade overall standards of education and help benchmark our schools with Asia’s best? Will the Sy’s investments force other universities out of complacency and encourage them to keep up with modern times?

After establishing Asia Pacific College with IBM as partner and his wife’s younger brother Dr. Paulino Tan as administrator, after becoming a major investor in his former alma mater Far Eastern University (FEU), Henry Sy has now recently purchased the 108-year-old National University located in Sampaloc district, Manila.

Sources told this writer that a new eight-story NU building project will have its groundbreaking rites on July 31. The designer of this new building is top architect Jose Siao Ling and the contractor is New Golden City Builders.

NU is the oldest privately-owned non-sectarian university in the Philippines, and its alumni include ex-President Fidel V. Ramos, the late President Carlos P. Garcia and the late writer N.V.M. Gonzalez.

Once, at a dinner with Henry Sy, this writer told him that perhaps 100 or 200 years from now people may not remember him for his malls and banks, but his investments in schools may yet be his most lasting legacy. When he asked why, I mentioned the example of Singapore’s patriotic overseas Chinese taipan and the world’s “Rubber King” of the early 20th century, Tan Kah Kee, also known in Mandarin as Chen Jiageng. He is revered all over East Asia for having built and endowed the first privately-financed university in China in 1921, the beautiful seaside Xiamen University.

Apart from galvanizing overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia to support China’s war against Japanese military invasion during World War II, Tan Kah Kee also built pioneering schools in 1913 in his hometown of Jimei in Fujian province, China, which became the modern-day Jimei University. A grandson of Tan Kah Kee is today one of Singapore’a wealthiest taipans, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. (OCBC) and Great Eastern Life Insurance boss Lee Seng Wee.

Another patriotic overseas Chinese taipan is Hong Kong multi-billionaire Li Ka-Shing, who donated HK$2 billion for the founding of the 1.26-square-kilometer Shantou University in his ancestral hometown of Shantou in south China. Today, Shantou University has endowments worth HK$20 billion.

Manny Pangilinan once told me that the world’s top entrepreneur he admires the most is Li Ka Shing, who used to have the same office building as he did in Hong Kong years ago, and MVP saw the workaholic and simple-living Li often going to office even on Sundays.

Manny Pangilinan investing in hospitals and medical tourism

On his recent 62nd birthday, First Pacific Group and PLDT/Smart Chairman Manuel “Manny” V. Pangilinan told me, “Yes, I am running in 2010” in response to my question about whether he had any plans to seek public office in 2010 as an alternative to all the politicians, lawyers and movie stars planning to run. However, before I could scribble down my notes, MVP added: “I’m running in 2010 in the Boston Marathon.”

Congratulations to MVP for soon taking over management of Cardinal Santos Medical Center (CSMC) on Wilson Street, Greenhills, San Juan starting August 1. Named after the first Filipino cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church — Rufino Jiao Santos — this hospital used to be managed by the group of the late low-key ethnic Chinese tycoon Hilario Murillo, one of the leaders of the Lee clan association of the Philippines. Sources told this writer that the Archdiocese of Manila, owner of CSMC, will allow Pangilinan’s group to be interim caretaker for six months until a new long-term lease shall be awarded.

MVP has also been running the Makati Medical Center for some years now and just recently bought 34 percent shareholdings in 39-year-old Davao Doctors Hospital for P500 million through Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC).

Davao Doctors Hospital also owns 100 percent of Davao Doctors College, 30 percent of Davao Doctors Oncology Center Inc. and 82.5 percent of Allied Professional and Development Corp. MPIC also owns Medical Doctors Inc. (MDI), which operates the Makati Medical Center.

Manny Pangilinan said his group is looking to acquire hospitals in the Visayas like in Iloilo City or Bacolod City, and since no hospital owner wants to sell in Cebu, his group is planning to construct a new modern hospital with a budget of P1.5 billion.

The sunrise industry of medical tourism is one of his corporate goals. MVP said he wants all the hospitals his group is managing to have “a spa-like atmosphere” in order to help the sick recover faster and also to promote medical tourism in the Philippines.

Let’s tap trillion-dollar medical tourism industry & others

PricewaterhouseCoopers, an American consulting company, said residents of 24 countries in the world had spent US$2.7 trillion in 2002 on health care and that this spending is expected to reach US$10 trillion by 2020 based on estimated future growth of the world’s population aged 65 and above.

Medical tourism should be one of the strategic goals of Philippine economic development plans. Instead of the Philippines exporting our talented, English-speaking nurses, caregivers and doctors-turned-nurses to hospitals and hospices worldwide, why don’t we invest in and develop world-class medical tourism facilities and bring the whole world here to our shores?

It’s the same way with mining. Instead of our politicians and their rent-seeking cohorts or foreign carpetbaggers cornering all the mining rights of resource-rich Philippines just for fast-buck mass exports of raw minerals, why don’t we invest in modern processing factories here in the Philippines and export higher value-added products to the whole world?

We should tell our politicians to come up with long-term strategic master plans on medical tourism, eco-tourism, alternative energy such as geothermal or solar; on agriculture, on aquaculture, on information technology and business process outsourcing; on mining and refining; and on entertainment, high fashion and other industries where the Philippine economy could be globally competitive, instead of just throwing away billions of pesos on politically expedient, short-term and simplistic-thinking subsidies!

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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