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Philippine Bonds Downgraded as Economy Struggles - 2004-02-02

A ratings agency has downgraded the Philippines' long-term debt rating, while a new survey shows Asia's property markets are becoming more transparent.

Financial ratings agency Moody's Investor Service cut the Philippines' long-term foreign currency debt rating two levels to BA-2 to BA-1. A lower rating means that investors may feel a country's bonds and other investments are too risky.

Moody's said the government has not done enough to control fiscal imbalances, and the coming presidential election in May has cast a shadow of uncertainty on the economy.

President Gloria Arroyo is seeking a second term in office, but her biggest challenger, movie star Fernando Poe, is ahead in the polls.

Financial analyst Gilbert Lopez of investment bank ING in Manila says the business community fears a victory by Mr. Poe will not help the Philippines's struggling economy. "There was a survey and it would show that the movie actor Fernando Poe Junior is having a sizable lead," said Mr. Lopez. "That puts some worry to some investors."

One of the world's biggest computer chip makers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, reported net profit of $1.4 billion for 2003, which is a leap of 118 percent from the previous year. The company says net profit from October to December surged as demand increased for silicon sheets containing computer chips.

In a global survey of property, consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle said real estate transactions have become more transparent in a third of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The index takes into account issues such as the availability of accurate market data, the enforceability of property rights and building codes.

The agency ranked Australia and New Zealand as the most transparent places in Asia for property transactions.

Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia were categorized as transparent, Japan South Korea and Thailand were reported as semi-transparent.

The consulting firm said reforms begun after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, as well as new rules for real estate investment funds, had helped improve transparency.