By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

EARNINGS of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) slipped in the nine months to September, weighed down by higher interest costs as the peso strengthened during the period.

The listed infrastructure conglomerate said its consolidated reported net income attributable to owners of the parent company dropped 5% to P11.80 billion during the January to September period. This was attributed to non-recurring expenses of P695 million compared to last year’s gain of P297 million.

“That swing is principally due to foreign exchange translation movements… When the peso weakens, we have a gain. And when the peso strengthens, the foreign assets will tend to be adjusted,” MPIC President and Chief Executive Officer Jose Ma. K. Lim said at a briefing in Makati City.

The higher expenses offset the 9% rise in operating revenues to P66.6 billion as of end-September, while cost of sales and services rose 5% to P32.6 billion.

Nine-month consolidated core income jumped 2.5% to P12.5 billion, “lifted by improved financial and operating results of constituent companies, which translated into a 6% increase in operating contributions: substantial core net income growth from Manila Electric Company (Meralco); higher volumes and tariffs at Maynilad Water Services, Inc.; continued traffic growth in domestic toll roads; and strong in/out patient numbers at hospital — all of which combined to offset higher interest costs.”

System-wide revenues, including Meralco, reached P320.3 billion, up 6%.

For the January to September period, the power business contributed P8.95 billion in core net income, up 5% thanks to Meralco.

Meralco reported a 11% rise in core income to P18.5 billion, driven by the higher energy sales and lower borrowing costs. Global Business Power Corp.’s core profit was flat at P2 billion, as volume sold dropped 4% due to the end of several short-term power supply deals.

The tollroads segment, under Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., recorded a 13% rise in core income to P3.69 billion during the nine-month period. This was due to toll rate adjustments that have been implemented since March, on top of higher traffic in domestic roads. MPTC’s system-wide vehicle entries averaged 923,912 a day in the nine-month period, compared to 916,879 during the same period last year.

The water business recorded a 4% rise in core net income to P3.18 billion, mainly from the operations of Maynilad Water Services, Inc. Maynilad core income climbed 6% to P6.5 billion during the period, “driven by revenue growth partially offset by increased concession amortization and provision for taxes.”

The hospitals business, operated by Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings, Inc., posted an 18% gain in core income to P681 million as it saw a 10% rise in outpatient visits and 6% increase in in-patient admissions during the period.

MPIC’s rail business, through Light Rail Manila Corp., recorded the biggest jump in core income at 25% to P224 million. This came from the average daily ridership of 445,373 during the nine-month period, peaking at 596,500 riders.

MPIC Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said the company expects its operating results to improve moving forward due to the P35.3-billion investment its hospital business received last month.

“[T]he improvement in our operating results has been reduced by higher interest costs. Moving forward this will be ameliorated by the benefit of our recently announced transaction for the hospitals business. The process of raising funding for MPIC is continuing with further portfolio rationalization to be announced in the coming months,” Mr. Pangilinan said in a statement.

“At this stage I expect our full year core income to be moderately ahead of 2018. Our absolute focus in the near-term is to raise liquidity to reduce our debts and our financing cost, and over the medium term to continue to build out the many new infrastructure assets we are currently working on. Clearly, our goal is to enhance profitability, earnings per share, and the Net Asset Value of MPIC,” he added.

The company did not disclose third-quarter figures.

MPIC is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp. 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.

Shares in MPIC dropped 0.20 point or 4.04% to close at P4.75 each on Wednesday.