Reporting to shareholders at the Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) annual meeting last April 26, President and Chief Executive Officer Sabin M. Aboitiz reflected on a challenging year and outlined a prudent yet optimistic outlook for both the company and the country as they gear towards recovery.
“COVID-19 may have affected our short-term plans, but we remain committed to our businesses and to the same growth pathway and trajectory,” Aboitiz explained to shareholders at the virtual annual meeting.
Amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Group’s business units, which operate in various critical sectors including power, banking and financial services, food, infrastructure, and land, still found ways to innovate and streamline their operations even with reduced budgets.
“At the onset of the COVID crisis, we embarked on an aggressive program to manage our cash flows, which included a group capex budget cut of about a third, opex budget revisions, and proactive customer and supplier management. So far, our business continuity plans are proving to be effective and our balance sheets are exhibiting resilience,” he added.
For 2021, Aboitiz will once again adopt a prudent approach to its balance sheet as it marches on the road to recovery. To that effect, the Group’s board of directors announced the following during the meeting:
- PHP48 billion is allocated for the Group’s capital expenditure to be used to fund the various projects of its business units.
- PHP23 billion of the capex budget will be used to fund the Power business for the completion of GNPower Dinginin as well as the battery energy storage projects.
- PHP15 billion will be allocated to the Infrastructure unit, of which PHP13 billion will be used to fund Aboitiz InfraCapital’s water businesses as well as its foray into the common tower business and other projects, with the remaining PHP2 billion to be earmarked for Republic Cement’s projects.
- PHP4 billion to be utilized by the Food Group for the expansion of its feedmill business.
- AboitizLand allocated PHP3.1 billion in capital expenditure for landbanking and the completion of its residential projects.
- UnionBank allotted more than PHP2 billion in capex for continued enhancements on digital touch points, as well as constructing an innovation hub to support customer needs during the current health crisis.
- Approved a dividend of PHP0.91 per share, with total dividend payout for the year amounting to PHP5 billion.
- The election of Justo Ortiz, Joanne De Asis, and Romeo Bernardo as part of the AEV board of directors, to replace outgoing directors Raphael Lotilla, Jose Vitug, and Edwin Bautista.
The chief executive pointedly credited the resilience of the business to the innovation and dedication demonstrated by its team members. Upon the onset of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last March 2020, the Group implemented work-from-home setups and stay-in shifts for team members working on location at critical infrastructures.
“All throughout, our priority was to ensure the wellbeing of our team members and that our strategic business units continued to operate at optimal levels, especially as our stakeholders relied on the essential services we provide,” he noted.
The Group sought to ease financial burden on its team members by immediately allotting PHP900 million for the early release of the 13th and 14th month pay following the imposition of nationwide ECQ in March 2020.
In addition, the Aboitiz Group and its businesses extended financial assistance and uninterrupted vital services to many of its host communities. By the end of 2020, a total value worth over PHP2.2 billion was contributed to the national pandemic response under a sustained initiative to help address the urgent needs of frontliners and affected communities.
“As we have for the last one hundred years, all our decisions and actions will continue to be guided by our time-honored values of integrity, teamwork, innovation, and responsibility. We will continue to actively participate in nation building and grow alongside the Philippine economy as we drive change for a better world by advancing business and communities,” Aboitiz said.