Philippine bourse targets more IPOs, REITs this year on recovery hope

MANILA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Seven Philippine firms plan to go public or offer real estate investment trusts (REIT) this year, the stock exchange said on Monday, representing a spurt in capital market activity in an economy still shaken by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippines, one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies before the pandemic, has long struggled to attract firms to its stock market, with just seven initial public offerings (IPOs) in the past three years.

However in 2021, at least three companies will go public and four property firms will conduct REIT offerings, Philippine Stock Exchange Inc President and Chief Executive Ramon Monzon said in a statement, without identifying the companies.

Last November, DoubleDragon Properties Corp said it planned raise as much as 14.7 billion pesos ($306 million) through a REIT in February.

REITs manage real estate assets such as hotels, office buildings and shopping malls that regularly generate profit. They are attractive to investors seeking regular dividends.

“Although the current economic environment remains fragile because of the unpredictability of the COVID-19 situation, we choose to be optimistic,” Monzon said, adding that restoring investor confidence will continue to be a challenge.

The bourse will relax listing rules this year to attract more companies, Monzon said. Also, new features will include short-selling, added sector classifications and indices, and a data analytics platform, he said.

At 272, the bourse lists the lowest number of companies among major Southeast Asian peers.

Funds raised through the bourse rose 2.9% in 2020 to 104 billion pesos ($2.17 billion), mainly through IPOs and follow-on share sales, bourse data showed.

The Philippines’ broader stock index declined 8.6% last year, plunging as much as 41% in March during the novel coronavirus-induced global market sell-down. ($1 = 48.0100 Philippine pesos) (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Christopher Cushing)