By Krista A. M. Montealegre,
National Correspondent

METRO PACIFIC Investments Corp. (MPIC) is readying more unsolicited infrastructure proposals after sustaining a double-digit growth in core net profit despite continuing regulatory uncertainty.

In a briefing in Makati on Thursday, MPIC President Jose Ma. K. Lim said the local unit of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd. has new proposals in the works covering waste-to-energy facilities and water supply projects.

With President Rodrigo R. Duterte more welcoming of unsolicited proposals compared to the previous administration, MPIC has submitted offers covering three toll road projects cumulatively worth P140 billion, one P15-billion waste-to-energy facility, and four to five water supply deals.

Aside from these projects, MPIC is also part of a “super consortium” that has submitted a P350-billion offer to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Likewise, the conglomerate also made an offer to upgrade the Metro Rail Transit Line-3 even as state-run lenders Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines were reportedly considering unloading their stake in the dilapidated railway.

“We’re not prepared to buy those shares unless we have the concession,” Mr. Lim said.

MPIC’s group-wide capital expenditures reached P38 billion last year on top of the P38.9 billion invested to deepen its participation in the power sector and expand into new markets including Indonesia. The company continues to look at possible opportunities for tollway projects in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia as well as water projects in Vietnam and Indonesia, officials said.

The hospital group is also keen on acquiring more hospitals. MPIC participated in the process of buying Ayala Land, Inc.’s stake in the hospital chain QualiMed, but indicated it was only interested in specific assets such as hospitals in Iloilo and Batangas as well as an outpatient center in the Philippine General Hospital, Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings, Inc. President Augusto P. Palisoc, Jr. said.

In the same briefing, MPIC Chief Finance Officer David Nicol said the conglomerate may push through with a bond issuance in the fourth quarter to finance requirements next year. The company has opened P30 billion in new credit lines sufficient to finance this year’s capital expenditure program.

However, Mr. Nicol said it was too early to provide a guidance on earnings and capex for the full year 2018 as both are related to continuing regulatory frustrations. Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. have been struggling to obtain contractual tariff increases from their respective regulators.

Last month, the Philippine government unexpectedly applied to the High Court in Singapore to have the award in Maynilad’s favor vacated. The appeal process may take a maximum of six months, with MPIC having a “strong belief” of a favorable ruling.

Tariff delays and the arbitration proceedings have also contributed to the delay in MPIC’s plan to sell a portion of its stake in Maynilad to an Asian investor, Mr. Nicol said.

“We are doing our best to support the ‘Build, Build Build’ agenda of the government. However, our investors (many of whom are hardworking Filipino savers and pensioners by the way) and our creditors need confidence that our various concession and franchise agreements will be observed,” MPIC Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan was quoted in the statement as saying.

“We are working hard to resolve these matters. It is our hope that our partners in government could come along with us in the spirit of partnership in which our various projects were conceived,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

Notwithstanding the delays in tariff hikes, MPIC reported a 17% rise in consolidated core net income to P14.1 billion last year from P12.1 billion in 2016.

MPIC’s earnings got a boost from an expanded power portfolio following further investment in Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., significant traffic growth on all roads held by MPTC and continuing growth in the hospital group.

In terms of contribution to the company’s net operating income, power accounted for 52%; toll roads contributed P3.9 billion contributed 22%; water added 21%; hospital provided 4%; and rail, logistics and systems group delivered 1%.

MPIC is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific, along with PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining. Hastings Holdings, Inc. — a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. — maintains interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

MPIC shares closed flat at P5.63 apiece on Thursday.