UK oil firm, retailer eye Philippines for expansion

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LONDON: Two big companies in the United Kingdom are eyeing the Philippines for expansion, as they see the country as the perfect place to settle before branching out to other Southeast Asian countries.

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On the sidelines of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) London’s inaugural reception held on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning in Manila), Asif Ahmad, British ambassador to the Philippines, told reporters that there are several companies that have started to express their interest to expand to the Philippines.

“After hearing everything today [in the PAL inaugural flight to London dinner], they [an investor]is very interested in setting up an oil refinery in the Philippines, that’s one event here. We also got a very big retailer here who is interested in going to the Philippines,” he said.

“[That big retailer will go in the Philippines] only if they can manufacture in the Philippines, and there’s one more important thing, if they can import freely in other Asean countries,” Ahmad added, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

However, he confirmed that there are some British retail brands that will be coming to the Philippines soon.

“We have Marks and Spencers, Debenhams, Topshop. River Island is the next one to open. It’s a fashion, middle end. Then you’ve got a chain which I can’t name, a famous British coffee shop chain that will open in the Philippines soon,” Ahmad said.

European SMEs to prospect PH
In a bid to boost investments coming from Europe, the UK Embassy to the Philippines has thought of urging small medium enterprise (SMEs) from Europe to come into the country, amid the bright prospects for the Philippine economy.

In the UK, an SME usually has sales of about one million to 10 million pounds, and once a company gets sales of 10 million to 50 million pounds, it is considered in the middle segment. Converted to Philippine peso, a British SME has as much as P600 million to P3 billion in annual sales.

“This [SMEs] is a new trend,” Ahmad said.

“The reason why it’s happening is we as a government have been telling these companies that the old idea of expanding just within Europe is not an easy model. Europe is in recession, you’ll not going to find that very easy to do,” he said.

“And also, if you are manufacturing something, once you start to get big orders to scale up manufacturing, just relying on your home base here is very difficult. But once you go to countries like Asia and other place, you can start to increase your supply chain, you can find new partners and the other is venture partners,” Ahmad added.

According to him, the British Embassy to the Philippines is working on a venture wherein the British Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines could get a grant from the British government to set up an especially made SME service.

“Anybody who is brand new to the Philippines can go there and be helped with the basics—what are the laws, how do I set up a company, where do I get a business partner. By doing that, we’ll speed up the whole process. My ministers asked me to double trade within the next five years, it cannot happen just with the big companies coming in. We need the small enterprises,” Ahmad added.

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