Property Firms Rally as Duterte Bucks China Ban on Online Gaming

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine property shares got a boost after President Rodrigo Duterte said his country benefits from online casinos, standing pat on the industry despite China’s call for a total ban.

“I decide that we need it. Many jobs will be lost. Anyway, it’s government-controlled,” Duterte said in a televised briefing late Wednesday, when asked what he told Chinese President Xi Jinping about Philippine online gaming operators, or Pogos.

The rally in property companies was led by Filinvest Land Inc. and Megaworld Corp., among the country’s top landlords, which each gained as much as 5.6% in early trading in Manila on Thursday. Other builders exposed to online casinos also climbed, with D.M. Wenceslao & Associates and DoubleDragon Properties Corp. gaining more than 3% each.

Investors have dumped Philippine property stocks amid concern Duterte will clamp down on the offshore gaming industry, which is overtaking business process outsourcing companies as Manila’s top source of office demand.

China wants the Philippines to stop all forms of online gambling, as it continues cracking down on a practice it says causes an illegal outflow of money. Online and phone betting has exploded in countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia over the last few years due to demand from gamblers in mainland China.

Duterte also said that he and Xi had long agreed on a 60-40 revenue-sharing arrangement that would favor the Philippines should joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea proceed.

Still, the Philippine leader said the territorial dispute between the two nations “will remain a problem” after Xi insisted that China doesn’t recognize Manila’s victory in an arbitration case that nullified some of Beijing’s claims in disputed waters.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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