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Philippines' Ayala eager to fund more startups

Net income in 2016 rose 17% driven by real estate, banking units

MANILA -- Philippine conglomerate Ayala Corp. is keen on investing in more developers of new technologies that complement its existing businesses, officials said on Monday.

The company, which has already put around $50 million into startup companies, "is willing to invest in seed funding now, unlike before," Paolo Borromeo, head of corporate strategy, told reporters.

Chief Financial Officer Teodoro Limcaoco said target startups should offer technology that is "synergistic with our current portfolio."

Last month, Ayala, together with its real estate unit Ayala Land and banking arm Bank of the Philippine Islands, acquired a 49% stake in e-commerce platform Zalora Philippines, which is part of a group backed by Germany's Rocket Internet. Prior to that, the company bought minority stakes in MedGrocer, an e-Pharmacy, and in financial technology company Mint, which counts China's Ant Financial Services Group as a principal shareholder.

Limcaoco, without disclosing figures, said Ayala had also infused capital in a Hong Kong-based startup and a solar power technology company in Silicon Valley.

Ayala is building its power generation business as part of new ventures, which also include health care, education and auto manufacturing. As well as property and banking, the company's traditional business sectors are telecommunications and water.

The company said its recent push into new technologies comes amid increased digitization and changing consumer lifestyles. Limaoco said half of the roughly 60 million Filipinos with internet access have searched for products online, while 38% have made purchases. Meanwhile, 40% of Philippine towns have no bank, with people forced to pay around $1 to travel to a payment center, meaning there is a market for mobile payment services.

On Monday, Ayala said net income rose 17% to 26 billion pesos ($517 million) in 2016, driven by its real estate, banking, energy and automotive units.

Ayala Land's net income jumped 19% to 20.9 billion pesos on higher residential sales and leasing revenues from its mall operations.

Net profit at Bank of the Philippine Islands jumped 21% to 22.1 billion pesos, driven by its core banking operations, bancassurance business and trading gains.

AC Industrials, which has electronics manufacturing and auto distribution operations, recorded a 29% growth in net income to 1.8 billion pesos, while AC Energy's net profit expanded by 25% to 2.7 billion pesos.

Manila Water's net income improved by 2% to 6.1 billion pesos on higher contributions from businesses outside its Metro Manila concession.

Globe Telecom, a joint venture with Singapore Telecommunications, logged 15.9 billion pesos net income, down by 4% from 2015, on higher expenses amid intensifying competition with Philippines rival PLDT.

The company has factored in 185 billion pesos of capital expenditure this year, 13% up from last year.

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