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R&I upgrades Philippines’ credit rating to BBB+

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JAPAN-BASED Rating and Investment Information Inc. (R&I) has upgraded the Philippines’ credit rating on the back of its positive growth performance, healthy fiscal conditions and its infrastructure development drive.

R&I has upgraded the country’s credit rating by a notch to “BBB+” from “BBB”, just a step away from the minimum score within the government’s targeted “A” scale. R&I also assigned a “stable” outlook to its rating on the Philippines, signifying that the grade is unlikely to be changed within the short term.

“R&I said the upgrade was based on its assessment of the Philippines’ positive growth performance and prospects on the back of the government’s infrastructure development drive, as well as the government’s ability to keep its fiscal condition healthy,” the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Investor Relations Office (IRO) said in a statement on Friday.

Aside from this, IRO said the ratings firm also took into consideration better socioeconomic climate in the Philippines.

Based on R&I’s report as cited by the IRO, the country’s economy was said to be driven by the current administrations’s aggressive public investment, its “commitment to fiscal discipline”, its “confidence of achieving the downward trend of the debt ratio even as public investments rise.”

Moreover, R&I took into consideration the country’s lower unemployment and poverty rates as well as rising per capita gross national income.

“Favorable assessment from Japanese credit rating agencies like R&I has become more important for the Philippines in recent years, given the government’s successive issuances of Samurai bonds in the Japanese market as part of the strategy to diversify sources of financing,” IRO said in a statement.

The economy grew by 5.9% in 2019, missing the government’s target range of 6-6.5%.

Meanwhile, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the unemployment rate slipped to 5.1% in 2019 from 5.3% in 2018. The 2019 figure is also the lowest in 14 years.

The PSA also reported that poverty incidence decreased to 16.6% from 23.3% in 2015, translating to about 5.9 million poor individuals lifted from poverty.

“…hitting an A-scale rating from R&I and the other debt watchers within the next two years is achievable. But of course, we can never be complacent…,” BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno was quoted as saying in the IRO statement.

“On the part of the BSP, we will continue to adhere to the sound conduct of monetary policy and banking supervision,” he added.

Earlier, Mr. Diokno identified key structural reforms which he said could boost the country’s credit ratings, including amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA) and the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA), amendments to the Agri-Agra laws paired with fresh reforms in financial consumer protection and deposit secrecy.

Mr. Diokno said a “stronger economy” is the objective and getting the “A” rating is not the end in itself.

Despite this, he cited benefits that the country may reap from an “A” rating, including lower borrowing costs for the government, which will cause more savings that can be utilised to “fund more roads, urban transport, mass housing, education, health services, and social welfare”.

“Over time, interest rates on loans may also decline, thus benefiting individuals and firms securing loans for consumption and investments,” he added.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez said the country’s “strong macroeconomic fundamentals plus the [President Rodrigo R.] Duterte administration’s aggressive investment strategy, while maintaining fiscal discipline, show that we deserve the higher rating.”

In 2019, S&P Global Ratings also upgraded its credit rating for the country to “BBB+” on the back of above-average growth and strong external and fiscal position that have buoyed the economy.

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service affirmed their “BBB” and “Baa2” ratings for the country, respectively, which are both a notch above the minimum investment grade. — Luz Wendy T. Noble



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Keppel Philippines Properties, Inc. announces schedule of annual stockholders’ meeting

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NOTICE OF THE ANNUAL MEETING
OF THE STOCKHOLDERS OF
KEPPEL PHILIPPINES PROPERTIES, INC.

TO ALL STOCKHOLDERS:

Notice is hereby given that the Annual Stockholders’ Meeting (“Meeting”) of Keppel Philippines Properties, Inc. (the “Company”) will be held on 13 August 2020, Thursday, at 2:00 p.m., at 5th Floor, Nostalg 1 and 2, Joy Nostalg Hotel & Suites Manila, 17 ADB Ave, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Stockholders who may not be able to attend the physical meeting may attend through remote communication via WebEx online meeting.

The Agenda of the Meeting shall be as follows:

1.  Call to Order
2.  Proof of Notice of Meeting and Certification of Quorum
3.  Approval of the Minutes of the Annual Stockholders’ Meeting held on 13 June 2019
4.  Chairman’s Address
5.  Presentation and Approval of Y2019 Annual Report and Audited Financial Statements
6.  Ratification of Acts and Proceedings of the Board of Directors, Officers and Management of the Corporation during the Year under Review
7.  Election of Directors
8.  Presentation of Directors’ Remuneration for Y2019
9.  Appointment of External Auditor for Y2020
10. Other Matters
11. Adjournment

Only stockholders of record at the close of business on 03 July 2020 are entitled to notice of and to vote at this meeting. Should you be unable to attend the meeting personally, you may opt to send your proxy to attend the meeting on your behalf.  If you will be sending your proxy, kindly file your duly executed proxy form with the Corporate Secretary on or before 03 August 2020. Please note that Management is not soliciting proxies.

If appointing a proxy, kindly date, sign, and deliver your proxy form to the Corporate Secretary at Keppel Philippines Properties, Inc., 12 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City 1550 on or before 03 August 2020. All proxies received will be validated on 06 August 2020.

Stockholders that will participate by remote communication should register by sending a notification or confirmation of their attendance via e-mail to keppel.prop@kepland.com.ph on or before 03 August 2020. Guidelines for registration, participation by remote communication and voting in absentia is available on the Company’s website (http://keppelland.com.ph) and on its PSE Edge Company Disclosures page (https://edge.pse.com.ph).

On the day of Meeting, registration will begin at 1:30 p.m. Please bring your Identification Card and present the same at the registration desk at the entrance lobby of 5th Floor, Nostalg 1 and 2, Joy Nostalg Hotel & Suites Manila, 17 ADB Ave., Ortigas Center (Topaz Road Entrance), Pasig City.

10 July 2020, Pasig City.

(Sgd) MA. MELVA E. VALDEZ
Corporate Secretary

The Definitive Information Statement (2020 SEC Form 20-IS), Annual Report (2019 SEC Form 17-A), 2019 Audited Financial Statements, 2020 1st Quarter (SEC Form 17-Q), and Minutes of the Annual Stockholders’ Meeting (13 June 2019), sample proxy form, Guidelines on Participation by Remote Communication, and other documents related to the Meeting may be accessed through the following:

1.  Go to Company website via: http://keppelland.com.ph;
2.  Go to the Company’s PSE EDGE profile via https://edge.pse.com.ph; or
3.  Request for a copy by sending an email to keppel.prop@kepland.com.ph.

For ASM-related queries, you may send an email to keppel.prop@kepland.com.ph or contact the Office of the Corporate Secretary at 8817-8971.

For concerns on shares or account updating or validation, please contact the Company’s Stock Transfer Agent, Stock Transfer Service, Inc. (Attention: Michael C. Capoy / Riel John Simon C. Revelar) through +632 8403-3798 or via email to rcrevelar@stocktransfer.com.ph or mccapoy@stocktransfer.com.ph.



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How a hair-care company went from salon supplier to sanitizer powerhouse

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When AG Hair moved into its new, 70,000-sq.-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Coquitlam, B.C., two years ago, it was part of a plan to supercharge expansion of its hair care product line to salons in international markets. Europe was next on its list. Then COVID-19 hit.

Not only was the European expansion put on hold, but salons in major markets across Canada and the United States were temporarily closed. Very few were purchasing hair products, so manufacturing was halted in mid-March, leaving most of the company’s 82 employees out of work.

AG Hair could have waited out the pandemic but instead decided to lean into its entrepreneurial culture and make a sharp pivot. It began providing hand-sanitizing products for front-line health-care workers, addressing a global shortage.

“We realized there was this massive need for health-care professionals, and we wanted to make a difference and be able to provide them with the products they needed,” says AG Hair CEO Graham Fraser.

AG Hair received Canadian and U.S. approvals a week after applying for the licences needed to make sanitizer, and produced samples to show local authorities within 48 hours.

AG Hair’s Coquitlam facility has pivoted to making hand sanitizer (Photograph by Alana Paterson)

“That rapid response time, and the fact that we had gone through all of the Health Canada regulatory hurdles, showed [the local health authorities] that we were a partner they could trust and someone they could look to, to deliver the products they needed,” Fraser says.

Within a month, the company started pumping out the products, first for the health-care industry, then for consumers on its own website and on Amazon. About 10 per cent of AG Hair’s hand-sanitizer production also went to people in need, as identified by organizations such as United Way.

Parallel 49 Brewing Company is also using AG Hair’s Coquitlam manufacturing facility to produce its own blend of liquid hand sanitizer for front-line health and emergency workers, in partnership with the B.C. government.

Fraser credits his team for its energy and creativity in making the hand-sanitizer production happen, and helping put AG Hair staff back to work.

“We realized we had an opportunity . . . and then it became this incredible, almost war-room mentality and collaboration with our owners, our executive team and our people to say, ‘How are we going to get through this?’ ” Fraser recalls. “I think our success speaks to the type of people we have and the entrepreneurial spirit of pursuing every avenue we have, understanding how we can produce the products and making it happen.”

AG Hair’s commitment to investing in future growth is a big part of what makes it a Best Managed company, says Nicole Coleman, a partner at Deloitte and co-lead of its Best Managed Program in B.C.

“Capability and innovation come through quite strongly with this company,” says Coleman, who is also AG Hair’s coach at Deloitte. “I don’t think they would be able to pivot as quickly if they weren’t so strategic and had the internal capabilities to do it.”

The manufacturing facility was a big investment, but one Coleman says has already paid dividends.

“They were looking forward with a strategic plan in mind about future growth and how they could expand, rather than just focusing on the day to day,” she says. “Best Managed companies are always pushing the envelope and are conscious about planning for the future.”

AG Hair was founded in Vancouver in 1989 by hairstylist John Davis and graphic artist Lotte Davis. The husband-and-wife team began bottling hair products in their basement and selling them direct to salons from the back of a station wagon.

The company eventually moved its manufacturing off-site, to a third party. One day, John went to watch the operations and was surprised to see salt being poured into the mixture. Although he was told salt is commonly used as a thickener, he didn’t like the potential side effects of dry hair and skin.

It was at that moment John decided the company would oversee its own manufacturing. “Through that experience, John also became an expert in product development,” says Fraser, who came to the company in 2000 as director of sales.

After having worked for more than two decades at PepsiCo and Kraft Foods, Fraser was eager to work at a smaller, more agile company where he felt he could help make a difference.

“It was perfect because I got to bring a lot of structure and process that I learned in those organizations, but I also learned an awful lot about being an entrepreneur from John and Lotte: that sense of urgency, the decision-making process, the need to get things done and drive things forward and pursue opportunities,” he says.

Fraser has helped drive AG Hair’s expansion into the U.S. and internationally, including Australia, Taiwan, and Central and South America. A portion of its sales go to One Girl Can, a charity founded by Lotte that provides schooling, education and mentoring for girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Fraser also oversees the development of new, trending products, including a new deep-conditioning hair mask made with 98 per cent plant-based and natural ingredients. Hand-sanitizing spray and gel will be the latest addition to the company’s product lineup.

“We don’t see the demand [for hand-sanitizing products] going away,” he says. “As the isolation policies start to get lifted, people are going to need forms of security and protocols as they get back into regular life and work. We see there’s going to be a need for these types of products long-term.”


This article appears in print in the June 2020 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Working out the kinks.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

The post How a hair-care company went from salon supplier to sanitizer powerhouse appeared first on Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News.



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3 Healthcare Stocks Under $5 With Triple-Digit Upside Potential

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On Wall Street, some things never change. Public health crisis or not, the fact of the matter remains that healthcare stocks are the epitome of risk/reward plays. Why? It comes down to the nature of the industry itself.  Healthcare companies are unique in that their financial performances aren’t necessarily the most important piece of the puzzle. Rather, a few key factors like clinical data readouts or regulatory approvals indicate whether or not a particular name will be able to generate sustainable revenues in the long run. As such, any development, good or bad, can act as a catalyst that launches shares in either direct. So, which strategy can help investors find the healthcare stocks poised to blast off on an upward trajectory? One approach is to follow the pros on Wall Street.We used TipRanks’ database to lock in on three healthcare stocks that have been given the Street’s blessing, and come with an affordable price tag. Each ticker trades for less than $5 per share and has earned a “Strong Buy” consensus rating from the analyst community. The icing on the cake? Serious upside potential is on the table.  Galmed Pharmaceuticals (GLMD)Focused on the development of its product candidate, Aramchol, Galmed Pharmaceuticals wants to provide patients with a more effective therapy for the treatment of Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). Given its recent addition to its product lineup and its $4.50 share price, the healthcare name is scoring major points with the Street.Back in May, GLMD unveiled Aramchol meglumine, which is an Aramchol salt version that is more soluble than the free acid version, with it also showing improved PK characteristics. The therapy is eligible for New Chemical Entity (NCE) designation and additional patent protection.Weighing in on the impact of this revamp, five-star analyst Yasmeen Rahimi calls the candidate GLMD’s “new star," arguing it “can raise the bar for Aramchol's efficacy in NASH and potentially add a layer of patent protection.” The analyst points out that the company has already placed a significant focus on protecting its intellectual property, with patents maintained in 37 territories in the EU, as well as other countries including Canada, Australia, China and Japan. In addition, patent discussions are taking place in the U.S.Speaking to the improved PK characteristics, Rahimi highlights that when compared to the Aramchol free acid version, Aramchol meglumine produced nearly identical AUCs following a single dose, but a higher AUC after multiple doses, and Meglumine had an identical half-life at both the single and multiple doses. “Importantly, Aramchol meglumine demonstrated three-fold lower variation in concentration during multiple dosing, which hints at a potential for more steady concentrations in patients treated with meglumine and Aramchol meglumine's Cmax was higher during multiple dosing or steady state administration,” the analyst added.As for how COVID-19 affects this trial, Rahimi told clients “GLMD is taking a diligent approach to maintaining execution of Phase 3 ARMOR.” These efforts include temporarily halting the screening of new patients into ARMOR to minimize potential COVID-19 exposure, taking this time to advance the opening of new sites in preparation for when screening and randomization is possible and reducing its costs.To this end, Rahimi rates GLMD a Buy, along with a $33 price target. This figure conveys her confidence in GLMD’s ability to soar 622% in the next twelve months. (To watch Rahimi’s track record, click here)Turning now to the rest of the Street, other analysts also like what they’re seeing. 6 Buys and a single Hold add up to a Strong Buy consensus rating. Given the $19.86 average price target, the upside potential comes in at 334%. (See GLMD stock analysis on TipRanks)ImmunoGen (IMGN)Utilizing antibody-drug conjugates, or ADCs, ImmunoGen hopes its therapies will be able to disrupt the progression of cancer. Ahead of key data readouts, several members of the Street believe that at $4.22, its share price reflects an attractive entry point.Pointing to the FORWARD II study, five-star analyst John Newman, of Canaccord, tells clients that its mirvetuximab asset, which was evaluated in combination with Avastin, generated encouraging results. In addition to exhibiting strong efficacy and safety, a 64% Overall Response Rate (ORR) among Folate Receptor alpha high platinum agnostic patients was witnessed.Newman also noted, “Importantly, mirvetuximab + Avastin demonstrated a 59% ORR for FRa high patients that were platinum resistant, comparing well to ~27-28% for bevacizumab + chemotherapy in a similar population. In addition, ORR was similar between platinum-resistant and platinum-sensitive patients (59% vs 69%), suggesting encouraging efficacy for mirvetuximab in both populations.”As for what these results mean, Newman argues that they suggest mirvetuximab will eventually be approved and used in all lines of ovarian cancer, underscoring the importance of its safety in combination with other drugs.Going forward, enrollment for the Phase 3 MIRASOL trial and Phase 2 SORAYA trial is underway, with top-line data for SORAYA still slated for release in mid-2021. This will be followed up by MIRASOL’s top-line data readout in the first half of 2022.“Importantly, mirvetuximab is known to be a highly active agent in ovarian cancer, which should support robust enrollment. Also, we remind investors that the FORWARD I trial enrolled ahead of schedule in 9 months. We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic may have some effect on clinical trial enrollment, but we believe the effects can be mitigated,” Newman commented.The analyst is expecting positive data from both trials, with the Phase 2 data potentially supporting accelerated approval and the Phase 3 results supporting full approval. “Importantly, we see multi-leg long-term growth potential for mirvetuximab in ovarian cancer based on expansion into earlier lines of therapy, and eventual combination with platinum therapy in the front-line setting,” he stated.Everything that IMGN has going for it prompted Newman to leave a Buy rating and $12 price target on the stock. Should the target be met, a twelve-month gain of 183% could be in store. (To watch Newman’s track record, click here)     Do other analysts agree with Newman? They do. Only Buy ratings, 3, in fact, have been issued in the last three months. At $10.50, the average price target puts the upside potential at 147%. (See ImmunoGen stock analysis on TipRanks)Matinas BioPharma (MTNB)The last healthcare stock on our list, Matinas BioPharma, brings cutting-edge technology to the table, with the goal of developing therapies capable of overcoming the limitations associated with existing options. Even though COVID-19 impacted its clinical activity, multiple analysts believe that its $0.72 share price presents investors with a unique buying opportunity.As a result of the pandemic, the trials for MTNB’s two leading programs, MAT9001 and MAT2203, were delayed. That said, management recently stated it plans to restart the enrollment of ENHANCE-IT for MAT9001 and EnACT for MAT2203. Writing for BTIG, five-star analyst Robert Hazlett noted, “These two programs, especially MAT9001, are core value drivers for Matinas, and trial progress is welcome news.”Looking more closely at the trials, ENHANCE-IT is a head-to-head open-label, 28-day crossover trial featuring patients with elevated triglycerides designed to assess the pharmacodynamic (PD) effects of MAT9001 compared to Amarin’s Vascepa. Hazlett points out that the company has added two additional clinical sites to the program to compensate for the delay.Speaking to the strength of its MAT9001 asset, Hazlett believes the fact that its composition includes DPA, a more potent TG lowering Omega-3, sets it apart from the competition. In addition, the therapy doesn’t increase LDL, with it able to achieve substantially higher blood levels of EPA than Vascepa. “MAT9001’s positioning as a more potent, yet differentiated EPA-based omega 3 has become even more important under the lens of recent Vascepa patent trial challenge… We believe ENHANCE-IT can further differentiate MAT9001, and project material potential for this program, with estimate peak revenue of greater than $1.5 billion,” Hazlett said.As for EnACT, it is an open-label, sequential cohort study evaluating MAT2203, its liposomal nanocrystal (LNC) technology candidate which allows for oral delivery of the potent anti-fungal amphotericin B. It was designed for the treatment of HIV patients with cryptococcal meningitis. “Cryptococcal meningitis represents a beachhead for broader antifungal consideration of MAT2203 over time,” Hazlett commented. It should be noted that the CF Foundation has supported the therapy’s preclinical development, and MTNB has submitted a proposal to receive funding for MAT2501 through Phase 2.To this end, Hazlett rates MTNB a Buy along with a $5 price target. Shares could appreciate by 586%, should the analyst’s thesis play out in the coming months. (To watch Hazlett’s track record, click here)      Looking at the consensus breakdown, the rest of the Street agrees with Hazlett’s assessment. With 6 Buys and no Holds or Sells, the word on the Street is that MTNB is a Strong Buy. The $3.29 average price target implies shares could skyrocket 362% in the next year. (See MTNB stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for healthcare stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.



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