The British Are Coming: UK firms encouraged to expand into the Philippines

British firms are being encouraged to set up shop in the Philippines in order to take advantage of this up and coming Southeast Asian country, which will have one of the region’s highest GDP growth rates in 2015. Last week, in a recent sign of the growing business relations between the two countries, British Ambassador to the Philippines, Asif Ahmad, hosted the Great British Festival in Manila.

The festival sought to promote British brands and improve their name recognition in, and market access to, the Philippines. These brands included companies from the food and beverage, trade, retail, and automotive industries, with participants ranging from Waitrose and Diageo to Hamley’s and Jaguar.

Additionally, this June, the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry and the Public-Private Partnership Centre will hold a roadshow in the United Kingdom pitching for investment into the Philippines’s infrastructure and retail sectors.

Mr. Ahmad is currently helping to organize the upcoming roadshow by arranging to bring government representatives, Philippine investors, contractors, and British companies already operating in the Philippines to the UK in order to advertise the opportunities available for British companies. Ahmad aims to have at least 250 large companies and 50 small and medium-sized enterprises participate in the two-day roadshow, matching speakers with invited guests.

“There are so many opportunities,” Ahmad commented, “This an exciting market because the population is a spending population.” He drew particular attention to the expansion of Costa Coffee into the Philippines market, adding, “All the retail brands are here. If you look at cars, you already have Jaguar, Land Rover and Mini Cooper. Aston Martin (Lagonda Ltd.) is expected to come this year, while Morgan Motor Co. came in last year.”

Matt Kenley, international operations manager for Costa Coffee SEA and India, has said the British multinational coffeehouse is aiming to have 80 Costa Coffee shops in the Philippines within five years. These shops will partner with established supermarket and retailers.

Alongside business to customer investment opportunities for the retail sector, the roadshow will also be promoting infrastructure development. The Philippines’ Department of Public Works and Highways has committed to paving all national roads and concretizing all bridges by 2016, which will add up to over 32,000km of new construction.

Infrastructure development has been high on the agenda for the Aquino administration since it came into power in the Philippines three years ago. The quality of the Philippines’ infrastructure still compares unfavorably to other countries in the region, particularly in comparison to Singapore, but it is hoped that the upgrades will make the country’s business environment more attractive and competitive.

Michael Rodriguez MD of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets has affirmed that “the [Philippine] government today has made infrastructure development, particularly through public-private partnerships, a priority – this is the first time after a few administrations that this has happened.”

A key area that is slated for development is Mindanao, the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines. In order to uncap the potential in the area’s agriculture and tourism industries, the government is encouraging private and public investment to link airports and seaports to production centers and tourism destinations.

With robust broad-based economic growth, and a positive appraisal of the Philippines’ budget deficit and inflation targets from the IMF, British investors are likely to be grateful for Ambassador Ahmad’s efforts in securing improved commercial cooperation between the two countries.

Originally published as ‘British Firms Encourages to Expand into the Philippines’ on ASEAN Briefing, 3 March 2015.

Image: Andrew B. Myers.

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