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Billionaire Sy to Accelerate Mall Expansion in China

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April 4 (Bloomberg) -- SM Investments Corp., Philippine billionaire Henry Sy’s holding company, will speed its expansion in China and build more shopping centers in the country.

SM Prime Holdings Inc., the company’s mall unit based in Manila, plans to build two shopping centers every year beyond 2016, up from one project a year currently, SM Prime Chief Finance Officer Jeffrey Lim said yesterday. Two will be planned for 2016 and 2017 in Yangzhou and Changzhou city, eastern China’s Jiangsu province.

“China will provide us the long-term growth path as we continue to focus on the Philippines,” Lim said in a media briefing in Hong Kong yesterday. “Once we have set up the organization, we could move into two malls every year.”

An expansion in China, the world’s second-largest economy, will help reduce SM Prime’s reliance in the Philippines, where growth is forecast to slow to 6.5 percent this year, according to economist estimates surveyed by Bloomberg. The economy expanded 7.2 percent in 2013.

SM Prime, which currently has five malls in China, will open a shopping center in Shandong’s Zibo city this year and its biggest in Tianjin in 2015. It operates 48 malls in the Philippines.

Sy, 89, has a net worth of $11.3 billion, making him the richest man in the Philippines, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The company’s existing malls in China posted a profit of 958 million pesos ($21.3 million) last year, or about 6 percent of its 16.27 billion peso total net income, according to its annual earnings statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michelle Yun in Hong Kong at myun11@bloomberg.net; Ian Sayson in Manila at isayson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephanie Wong at swong139@bloomberg.net; Michael Patterson at mpatterson10@bloomberg.net Subramaniam Sharma