• BPI bets on 6-7% GDP: ‘Still exciting, still a good growth trajectory’

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    BPI bets on 6%-7% 2015 GDP

    Despite churning out a much lower output than the government and private analysts had expected for the first quarter, the Philippine economy may still expand by 6 percent to 7 percent this year given the time left for government to boost spending, Bank of the Philippine Island’s (BPI) President Cezar Consing said.

    The economy in the first three months, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), slowed to a rate of 5.2 percent from 5.6 percent a year earlier, falling far too short of the government’s 7 percent to 8 percent projection for 2015 and 2016.

    “Unfortunately, the underwhelming economic numbers come at a time when there is a lot of volatility. But if you we’re to focus on what is happening to our country, it is still exciting, still a good growth trajectory. We won’t change our plans for the year,” Consing told reporters after the BPI Bayan Awards 2015 on Friday.

    “I think what all the other bankers are looking at now are the macro figures that came out. The GDP number was obviously a disappointment and the two sets that followed it ̶ both the FDI and the export numbers,” he said, referring to latest figures on foreign direct investment and merchandise trade.

    “What the people deemed lower, the first quarter GDP is still a high number. Let’s not get caught up on quarter-to-quarter, we have to look at the long-term,” he added.

    Referring to the government’s growth projection for 2015 and 2016, Consing said: “I think we’re talking probably at least 6 percent to 7 percent. We have to end the year strong to hit our GDP targets. [But] I think it’s really possible.

    Consing said the BPI is not changing its assumptions for the full year.

    “We’re [a]data driven [bank], we’re going to see what the numbers are telling us. But so far, the pronouncements are: we expect the government spending to pick up, we expect services… to pick up. We’re keeping our base case,” he said.

    BPI posted a 38-percent surge in net income to P5 billion in January to March from P3.6 billion a year earlier.

    On the back of such profit numbers, Consing believes the BPI will keep the same pace of growth for the whole of 2015.

    “We haven’t changed our base case. We haven’t changed our plans… And that is, basically, we want to grow our core mediation business. We want to continue pushing more products through our branches, both corporate and retail segments. We want to continue to try more for existing customers, and at the same time, acquiring customers,” he said.

    Earlier, the BPI executive said the bank is focused on growing its core lending and fee-based businesses this year while trying to keep a handle on cost efficiency. The bank also sees opportunities in putting up more branches in the Visayas and Mindanao to expand and strengthen its countryside presence.

    Consing said the bank is also keen on growing both insurance and lending businesses and balancing the trading gains this year from the downside of 2014 and the superb gains in 2013.

    Asked if BPI is making bid for the government’s controlling stake in United Coconut Planters Bank, Consing declined to give the specific position of his bank. “I’m not in a position to comment about that. I have no comment. It’s not something we’re focused on at the very moment. But, you’ll never know,” he said.

    BPI is the banking arm of the Ayala Group under the holdings firm Ayala Corp., which also has controlling interests in the Manila Water Company Inc., Globe Telecom Inc., Ayala Land Inc., Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc., AC Energy Holdings Inc., AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp. and LiveIt Investments.

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