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CAPITAL MARKETS

The Philippines: Under-rated but not ignored

Long viewed as an under-performer, the nation has finally been rated investment grade by Fitch. How important is this stamp of approval to its economy’s development?

The economy of the Philippines has been on an upward march for the best part of three years after the coming to power of a regime that has acted swiftly and boldly to put the country on a sounder footing. But ratings agencies had remained unmoved by this progress, until Fitch bestowed the sovereign investment-grade status in late-March.

Recently, the Philippines has begun to attract interest from parts of the world that have historically given it a wide berth. This suggests a fundamental shift in the country’s standing on the global stage and might lead other ratings agencies to act.

"We’ve been having some really unexpected kinds of people come to the Philippines recently," says Antonio Paner, treasurer and head of financial markets group at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)." A few days ago a delegation from Kuala Lumpur came to the capital looking for potential investment opportunities that will be open to them once the Philippines reaches investment grade. BPI was one of the banks they were considering doing business with. Frankly, I was shocked."

It was a welcome first for Paner. Never before had Malaysia shown any real interest in investing in a meaningful way in the Philippines.

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