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First Balfour to venture into low-cost housing

Saturday, 18 December 2010 00:00
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The Lopez Group is looking to venture in the lower segment of the housing market through its construction subsidiary.
First Balfour Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Lopez-led First Philippine Holdings Corp., is set to do a P200-million residential project in a 2,000 square meter lot in Santo Domingo in Quezon City.
“Rockwell is the premium brand. In our case, our construction arm First Balfour is looking at that market in behalf of the group,”
Francis Giles Puno, First Holdings chief finance officer, told reporters.
First Holdings owns a 49-percent interest in Rockwell Land Corp., a high-end real-estate developer.
The 12- to 14-storey building will offer approximately 200 units at P1.2 billion each. Construction has started, which could last for two to three years.
“We still don’t want to call it a full-pledge effort. We’re just testing waters,” said Puno.
First Balfour has also entered into a joint venture with a property firm to develop a property in Laguna for low-cost housing.
First Holdings is still in negotiations to increase its stake in Rockwell through the acquisition of Manila Electric Co. shares in the property developer.
Meralco owns the remaining 51 percent of Rockwell Land.
“It’s not a core business of Meralco. Rockwell is very small and it is not even reflected in value of shares of Meralco,” Elpido Ibanez, First Holdings president, said.
Ibanez said the company is still looking at plans to conduct an initial public offering, but added that Rockwell does not need to raise funds through the market since it can borrow for its growth.
“Maybe later next year, we will consider it again,” he said.
Rockwell Land has enjoyed brisk sales take-up for its existing projects. The developer has sold 50 percent of Edades Tower in Makati and 86 percent of The Grove in Ortigas.
Rockwell Land’s nine-month net income rose 12 percent from P502 million to P560 million this year.
First Holdings shares fell from P61.40 on Thursday to P59.70 each on Friday.
Krista Angela M. Montealegre

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