Business survey bares optimism

"Heading into the 2016 elections, majority of Makati Business Club [MBC] members have an optimistic outlook for the year," the non-profit group, which claims to be made up of some of the country's largest corporations, said in a statement yesterday.

"A positive outlook is also seen in terms of corporate performance for 2016, as majority of respondents project an increase in both gross revenues and net income in the coming year," the group said about the response from senior business executives.

MBC's economic outlook survey for the first quarter, conducted from Feb. 2 to March 16, drew 71 responses equivalent to 17.75% of its 400 members. Ninety-three percent of respondents belonged to Filipino firms, 54% said they had annual revenues of at least P1 billion and 30% had at least 1,000 employees.

The group said majority of survey respondents, or 87.32%, held top management posts.

The general optimism reflected was complemented by results of the central bank's first-quarter Business Expectations Survey -- conducted last Jan. 5-Feb. 17 among representatives of 1,539 firms drawn from the combined list of the Securities and Exchange Commission's Top 7,000 Corporations in 2010 and BusinessWorld's 2014 Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines -- that showed:

o a confidence index (CI) for that quarter of 41.9%, though down from 51.3% in 2015's final three months, and

o the CI for "next quarter" rising to 49.6% from 43.9% in the preceding survey partly in anticipation of spending related to the May 9 national elections.

EXPECTATIONS

MBC said 52% of respondents in its survey expect the country's 2016 gross domestic product (GDP) to grow faster than last year's 5.8%. Thirty-nine percent saw GDP growth sustained, while 9% expected the economy's expansion to slow.

Survey results also showed 54% of respondents were optimistic of the country's ability to attract investors, expecting more investments to be approved by the government this year than the P106.6 billion reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority from January to September 2015. Twenty-six percent said they expected approved investments to stay the same, while 20% see a decline on such prospective inflows.

"On trade, the outlook is also fairly optimistic as MBC members foresee an increase in both imports and exports," the group said.

Specifically, 62% expected more imports than the $62.6 billion level posted from January to September last year. Thirty percent expect inbound shipments to remain at 2015's level, while only 8% projected a decline.

For exports 38% expected an increase from the January-September's $54 billion despite currently slumped external demand for foreign goods, another 38% expected receipts to stay the same while 24% projected a decrease.

On corporate outlook, 82% of respondents said they expected gross revenues to be bigger this year, 15% forecast this to be unchanged, while 3% projected a decrease.

"On the other hand, 74% of the respondents also project higher net incomes in 2016, while 19% foresee no change, and 7% expect lower net incomes," MBC said in its statement.

For 2016, 59% plan to invest more at an average of P4.9 billion, of which P1 billion will be coming from the diversified-conglomerate and service sectors.

"In terms of work force, 49% of respondents have plans on expanding..." MBC said, noting that majority of these optimists were in services. A smaller 47% said they plan to keep their headcount steady and only 4% are considering the possibility of downsizing.

TOP CONCERNS

MBC said the same survey asked its members on their three top priorities for the next administration.

The group said the top issues that emerged were infrastructure, corruption, and peace and order. Infrastructure came out in 57.75% of respondents' lists, corruption in 40.85%, peace and order in 32.39%.

"Other notable issues identified include... in no particular order: poverty, job generation, agriculture and education, among others," MBC said in its statement.

The group said majority of respondents -- 59% -- were from the services sector, while manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries made up 10% and 7%, respectively. Conglomerates, agriculture and other economic sectors accounted for 9%, 4% and 11%, respectively.

Source: BWorld Online

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