WHEN the ceremonial bell rang at the Philippine Dealing and Exchange (PDEx) last Thursday, I thought I heard it ring longer than usual.

For two good reasons, I found out minutes later.

Nino Nakpil, president and CEO of PDEx, explained that 10 years after its inception, the outstanding amount of corporate bonds listed in PDEx just breached P1 trillion.

Helping it cross the threshold was the listing that very morning of the single biggest issue in PDEx history -- a P25-billion bond issued by the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), the very first bank in the Philippines.

BPI President and CEO Bong Consing was understandably elated with the reception to the bank's debut fixed rate bond.

"At P25 billion, the bond is five times larger than our original target amount, and yet is priced at the tight end of our original price range. The order book exceeded P38 billion, indicative of the trust placed in us by thousands of investors," Consing said.

Nakpil thanked the community of corporate issuers for the significant strides achieved by PDEx over the last 10 years.

Among them, Nakpil noted, was the Ayala Group (of which BPI is a part) which was represented during the listing ceremony by Ayala/BPI top gun, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.

"The Ayala Group easily stands out as the 'pioneer passenger' and as the most 'frequent flyer' to boot," Nakpil said.

Ayala Corporation and Ayala Land started the ball rolling in 2008 with a total issue of P10 billion.

"With today's listing from BPI, the Ayala Group's cumulative level of listed bonds would stand at P203.13 billion or 20 per cent of total," Nakpil explained.

SEC Commissioner Ephyro Luis Amatong was equally ecstatic at the developments at the PDEx which he attributed to "a vibrant economy, an innovative private sector, and a commitment by the government to enhance the enabling environment."

Amatong cited the following series of reforms: "improved shelf registration of securities, reforms in the government securities market, and the domestic capital market reform effort involving SEC, BSP and the Bureau of the Treasury."

The peso bond is BPI's third fund raising in the capital markets in 2018.

In April, BPI raised P50 billion in equity via a rights offer.

In August, BPI raised $600 million via its debut US dollar bond offer.

All told, BPI now has issued 50 billion in equity and 57 billion pesos in bonds.

BPI's bond offering last Thursdaywas undertaken by the following:

* HSBC (headed by Graham Fitzgerald), lead manager and bookrunner;

* BPI Capital (headed by Reggie Cariaso) and HSBC, selling agents;

* Land Bank, trustee;

* RCBC, market maker;

* Metrobank, Multinational Investment Bancorporation, PCCI and RCBC, broker specialists.

(Disclosure: This writer is an Independent Director of Bank of the Philippine Islands and two of its wholly-owned subsidiaries - BPI Asset Management and Trust Company and BPI Direct BanKo.)

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