The top executive of the country’s oldest conglomerate is cautiously optimistic of this year’s business environment and warned of the possible negative impact on the economy of a second wave of the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The optimism of Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president of Ayala Corp. is reflected on the company’s higher capital expenditure for the year of P182 billion, up 8 percent from P167 billion spent in 2020 for various projects in telecommunication, real estate, water among others.
“I’m cautiously optimistic and hopeful that we will see growth this year, hopefully five , 6 percent, which will be a very dramatic reversal from what we have seen for (2020) for understandable reasons,” Zobel said.
Zobel said if companies continue to invest and create jobs, “we will be able to help people get out of this crisis.”
“It will not be easy, but we have to continue growing the engine of the economy., I hope we don’t get a second wave… If we get faced with a second wave, the situation will be very different,” he said,
But Zobel noted consumer behavior in terms of mobility and spending has been improving the past months.
He said he was “quite pleasantly surprised” dollar remittance numbers from overseas “did not go down as much as we thought they would,” calling this a safety net for Filipinos.
While a lot of companies during the worst part of the pandemic last year were on survival mode, Zobel said a lot of them were also fairly well capitalized before going into the crisis.
“We’ve been lucky as a country and that’s thanks to the good efforts of the government to be operating in a fairly low interest environment, and where we have been able to raise capital in the past. We were actually also able to raise capital in the middle of the pandemic,” Zobel added.
Having been able to borrow at low interest, he said, will help the country get through the crisis and will enable companies to continue investing.
Ayala Corp. is part of a private sector-led movement for the procurement of vaccines, half for donation and the other half for their own employees.
Zobel said Ayala Corp. will order 450,000 vaccines of AstraZeneca with total donation to government amounting to P120 million.
The cost of the vaccine is $5.50 each, with 50 cents to cover the logistics cost.
Zobel also expressed Ayala Corp.’s commitment to help in the distribution of the vaccine.
“Distribution, which is going to be a very important component in making sure that the vaccines can get to the public. This is a critical component and as you know, each of the vaccines, whether it’s AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, Novavax or Sinovac have their own peculiar requirements for distribution,” he said.
Ayala spent P12.7 billion for COVID response in 2020 both for its businesses, suppliers and donations. (I.Isip)