Edgar Sia II made his fortune a decade ago feeding the Philippines’ appetite for chicken. Now he stands to make an even larger one feeding China’s appetite for gambling.
Sia’s company DoubleDragon Properties spent the last few years building, among other things, office towers along Manila’s once-sleepy waterfront. Sia figured he’d lease the space out to call centers and business process outsourcers, key drivers of economic growth in recent years. He estimated that he could collect about $14 a square meter.
He didn’t count on demand from across the South China Sea. DoubleDragon got its towers up and running just as warming ties between Beijing and Manila sparked a boom in arrivals by Chinese eager to open offshore casinos offering online gaming to countrymen back home where casinos are illegal.
DoubleDragon’s Meridian Park complex is a 10-minute drive from Manila’s Entertainment City casino complex. Sia found himself not only among the largest commercial property owners in the area, but the only one with new property to rent.
Far from Manila Bay, DoubleDragon is building shopping malls, hotels and industrial warehouses in smaller cities across the Philippines. Last year, it tripled net profits to roughly 7.4 billion pesos ($141 million) as revenue more than doubled to 14.3 billion pesos. DoubleDragon’s stock has climbed more than 50% this year. The company is now looking to cash in on its office towers and community malls, package these as a REIT and raise as much as 15 billion pesos via an IPO.
“Most of the baby steps and growing pains happened in the past five years,” says Sia, whose aim is for DoubleDragon to build about 1.2 million square meters of leasable commercial space by the end of 2020. “In just about a year more, the company will already become a strong adult.”
Edgar Sia’s own entrepreneurial upbringing began early. While studying architecture in university at the age of 19, he dropped out to lead a group of classmates build a 5-story hotel for budget business travelers, borrowing 40 million pesos from parents and a government pension fund to buy the land and pay for construction. “I was talking to the landowner who didn’t take me seriously,” he recalls. “So I grew a mustache to make me look older.” Sia shaved his mustache. He still owns the hotel.
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