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Megamall to retake status as country’s largest

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES [ BusinessWorld Online ]


SM MEGAMALL will soon become the country’s biggest shopping mall, with plans to build a new building on what is now a huge parking lot beside the metropolis’ main thoroughfare.

SM Prime Holdings, Inc., the Sy-owned listed mall developer and operator, will carry out the expansion of the Ortigas Center mall next year.

"We plan to do it next year after we finish the redevelopment of SM North EDSA," Hans T. Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings, Inc., told reporters.

For now, the country’s largest mall and the world’s third biggest is SM North EDSA in Quezon City, which has a gross area open for lease of 445,000 square meters (sq.m.) This was because of two expansion projects — the Sky Garden which was inaugurated by the Sys yesterday, and a new six-level annex building which opened last December.

Mr. Sy told reporters that SM Megamall’s parking space opens three more hectares for a building that would be connected to the main mall.

Aside from SM North EDSA, the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, SM Megamall, and SM City Cebu rank as the fourth, seventh, and eleventh largest malls in the world, respectively.

Mr. Sy noted that SM Megamall was so far SM Prime’s "best", pointing to heavy foot traffic even if surrounded by rival malls such as Robinsons Galleria of the Gokongweis and Shangri-la Plaza.

SM North EDSA’s the Sky Garden, meanwhile, will be formally opened to the public on Friday. It is part of the P2-billion redevelopment of SM North EDSA, the mall that opened to much skepticism in 1985 because of its suburban location, but propelled the Sys to retail dominance.

Attractions include free Wi-Fi Internet access, a roof garden with 55 species of plants; the P600-million Sky Dome or a performance area with a seating capacity of more than 1,000, and a strip of retail, dining and entertainment outlets.

Jeffrey C. Lim, SM Prime’s executive vice-president, said Sky Garden will have more than 30 tenants and will be open 24 hours. SM North Edsa, he claimed, is still enjoying a 98% occupancy rate despite the economic slowdown.

The next project is to redevelop the old building of SM North EDSA, which will have an IMAX theater.

Mr. Lim also said SM Prime was now in talks with the government to look for ways on how to "help" in the construction of the railway that will connect the Light Rail Transit to the Metro Rail Transit.

"We are still talking but SM is willing to help out depending on how it will look like," he said.

SM Prime earned P1.7 billion from January to March, a 7% increase. Revenues jumped by 18% to P4.7 billion on the back of the profitable operations of three malls in China.

Earlier this month, the company opened its first mall in the Bicol region, the SM City Naga in Camarines Sur, bringing to 34 the total number of SM Prime malls in the country.

This year it will open SM City Rosario in Cavite and SM City Pamplona in Las Piñas, and complete the expansion of SM City Rosales in Pangasinan. By the end of this year, SM Prime expects to have 36 malls in the country, with an estimated gross floor area of 4.9 million sq.m.

SM Prime shares went down by 1.19% or P0.10 to P8.30 yesterday. — Kristine Jane R. Liu

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