By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

MERRYMART Consumer Corp. (MerryMart) is set to list its shares and begin its maiden trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) today.

The grocery operator of businessman Edgar “Injap” J. Sia II will hold its bell ringing ceremony at the opening of the market at 9:30 a.m. Its shares will trade on the small, medium and emerging (SME) board of the PSE.

MerryMart offered 1,594,936,709 shares to the public at P1 each from May 27 to June 5. It tapped PNB Capital and Investment Corp. as lead underwriter, issue manager and bookrunner for the offering.

The company is the first to do an initial public offering (IPO) this year after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic challenged economies and pulled the local market to historic lows in March.

The PSEi has remained volatile throughout the past months. It started the year closing at 7,742.53 on Jan. 2, hit a low of 4,623.42 on March 19, and has since started recovery to close at 6,476.24 on June 11.

Mr. Sia, chairman and chief executive officer of MerryMart, told BusinessWorld on May 23 the company remains committed to its expansion plans despite the COVID-19 threat.

“We see this year 2020 as the new beginning of the next decade and both DoubleDragon and MerryMart will continue to pursue its goals to make it more and more entrenched in the Philippine market as years go by,” he said, referring to his other listed firm, DoubleDragon Properties Corp., which itself is planning a real estate investment trust (REIT) offering in the fourth quarter.

MerryMart said in a previous statement it believes it will perform well amid the pandemic because its business is in the non-discretionary basic essential retail category. It also said it intends to focus on this segment.

The company is targeting to have 1,200 branches across the country by 2030, with 100 branches as early as the fourth quarter of 2021. It also has plans to put up warehouses and distribution centers in DoubleDragon’s CentralHub warehouse complexes.

Despite the company’s optimism, Philstocks Financial, Inc. said it recommended investors not to subscribe to MerryMart shares at P1 each because it considers this overvalued.

“On its debut, it’s going to be an actively traded stock, could be volatile, and could possibly still have an upside just like the performance of other debutants… However, traders should take note that market capitalization of (MerryMart) is way bigger than (that of other market debutants), and we think that fundamentals will take over in the long run,” Philstocks Research Associate Claire T. Alviar said via text.

“We’re still seeing an upside on its first day given only the excitement of traders, evidenced by the performance of recent debutants with small caps, but we think that if investors consider fundamental value, the stock might decline below its IPO price in the long run,” she added.