Wake-up time for the Philippines
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CAPITAL MARKETS

Wake-up time for the Philippines

Left for dead after the financial crisis, the Philippine stock market is barely a rounding error on foreign investor's portfolios. But despite the country's economic woes, the market has emerged recently from its long sleep. Whether the recovery is a long-term trend or a brief flutter on an otherwise flat line seems to be up to the government. Chris Leahy reports.

"All of this depends on the political
leadership of the president and congress"

VISIT THE WEBSITE of the Philippine Stock Exchange, click on the IPOs section and a blank page pops up. Given the absence of Philippine equity offerings in recent years, it seems appropriate. Perhaps the webmaster felt he had better things to do elsewhere on the site than attend to a page that never needed updating. But the unthinkable has happened. The Philippines has seen not one but two IPOs in 2005. That might not seem particularly spectacular, but when these are the first international IPOs for eight years it is a real event. The Philippine stock market has been a wilderness for years. As the economy worsened and became increasingly mired in politics and corruption, international investors abandoned it in droves, the index shrank and volumes dried up.

Robrina Go, executive director and head of equities for UBS Securities Philippines in Manila, has lived through every painful year. "I've been selling the Philippines story for a long time," she says. "The last five years have been the most difficult. Volumes went as low as $5 million.

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