'PH to maintain growth, investment grade by 2014'

Posted at 02/08/13 5:08 PM

MANILA - The Philippine economy is seen to maintain its strong growth this year, coming from a faster-than-expected 6.6% expansion in 2012, Standard Chartered Bank said.

But the bank is quick to say the country may not be awarded an investment grade rating this year despite the progress it has made from many economic reforms.

In a research note, the bank said the country may very well reach an above-trend growth over the medium term or more than the 10-year average of 5.2 percent.

"Despite lower international rankings than other Asian countries on business, infrastructure and competitiveness, businesses in the Philippines continue to thrive," the bank said.

For one, 24-hour food and beverage businesses have started gaining ground amid the still-booming business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, Standard Chartered said.

In addition, the country's construction and property sectors in Metro Manila continue to give a push to economic growth.

"Many noted the progress that has been made so far -improved fiscal management, a structural current account surplus and stable administration. Previous economic policies that moved the country back on track are paying off," the bank said.

However, Standard Chartered said the country may not be able to get the elusive investment grade rating this year, and instead see this in 2014.

"Our call is that the upgrade will happen, but not until 2014," the bank said.

The Philippines is currently rated one notch below investment grade by Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings, and Moody's Investor's Service.

S&P rates the country a BB+ with a positive outlook, while Fitch grades it BB+ with a stable outlook. Moody's rates the country Ba1 with a positive outlook.

"We are realistically optimistic of the Philippines' growth story and expect the economy to continue growing at above-trend levels over the next two to three-year," Standard Chartered said.