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Billionaire who writes off 2020 says worst of virus yet to come

Enrique Razon, chairman of casino operator Bloomberry Resorts, listens to a question during a stockholders meeting' in Manila June 24, 2013. (FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

By Claire Jiao and Cecilia Yap

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine billionaire Enrique Razon said he has written off 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic slams major economies. What concerns him more? The world hasn’t yet seen the worst of the virus.

Volumes at port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc., where Razon is the chairman and which operates terminals in nearly 20 countries, likely fell 10% to 15% last month and are expected to decline further in April, he said Tuesday. His Bloomberry Resorts Corp. has shut its gaming operations during the lockdown on the Philippines’ main Luzon island.

“We will have to tally up the losses later on,” he said during a phone interview with Haslinda Amin and Yvonne Man on Bloomberg TV. “The only thing that counts now is defeating the virus.”

Razon said his conglomerate has a “healthy” amount of cash, though, so “there’s really no concerns there.” He supports a two-week extension of the Luzon lockdown through April and expects a recovery in consumer spending to take some time even after the quarantine is lifted as people focus on buying basic goods and saving money.

“The concerns of businesses are secondary at this point,” he said. “Get the infection down. Lifting the lockdown in this environment is going to be very tricky, a lot of people are underestimating what this is really going to take.”

Razon’s comments stand in contrast to some billionaires and business elite in the U.S., who are pushing to restart the American economy even as coronavirus infections and deaths continue to rise.

Meanwhile, congestion is easing in the Philippines’ biggest port, where ICTSI operates the Manila International Container Terminal, after the government imposed tighter deadlines and heavy fines on overstaying cargo, Razon said. In the early stages of the lockdown, the terminal saw container pull-outs drop sharply and congestion threatened to shut the port.

ICTSI closed up 1.4% in Manila, while Bloomberry shares inched 0.2% higher.


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