MANILA -- Chinese property buyers are continuing to buoy the earnings of major Philippine developers in the first quarter, sustaining strong property sales marked in 2017.
Ayala Land, the largest real estate company by sales, said net income and total revenues both rose by 17% to 6.52 billion pesos ($125.5 million) and 36.98 billion pesos, respectively, in the January-March quarter compared with a year ago.
Residential sales surged 34% to 21.77 billion pesos, outpacing the growth of commercial leasing revenues, which rose 11% to 8.16 billion pesos on the back of aggressive expansion in its shopping center, office and hotel ventures.
Ayala Land credited the residential sales growth to strong local demand. Domestic and overseas Filipino buyers made up 82.5% of the buyers by nationality. But Chinese buyers made nearly half of all international ones in the first quarter, keeping the trend they set last year.
Tens of thousands of mainland Chinese have migrated to Manila to work in offshore gaming industries. Operators have horded condominium units to house their employees, while some have made direct purchases to take advantage of the weak Philippine peso and improving diplomatic ties between Manila and Beijing, analysts and brokers said.
Megaworld, a major office lessor to Chinese offshore gaming companies, said rental revenues in the first quarter jumped 16.5% to 3.4 billion pesos from a year ago, helping net profit increase by 12.5% to 3.3 billion pesos.
Meanwhile, net profit at SM Prime Holdings, the largest developer by market value, went up 15% to 7.6 billion pesos, driven by a 25% growth in residential sales to 7.5 billion pesos.
SM Prime, which also runs the largest shopping center network in the archipelago, said higher condominium sales in the Mall of Asia area near Manila Bay, where many Chinese offshore gaming companies are located, drove sales. In late April, an SM Prime official said Chinese buyers' contribution to bookings doubled to 30% in the first quarter from a year ago.
SM Prime's strong first quarter pushed up its parent company's bottom line. Conglomerate SM Investments said net income grew 10% to 8.5 billion in the first quarter, with property accounting for 46%, followed by banks at 32% and retail at 22%.