Leading developer in Visayas and Mindanao (VisMin) Cebu Landmasters, Inc. (CLI) is set to exceed its 2022 growth target and reported a 43% year-on-year surge in revenues to Php10.96 billion in the first nine months of the year.
The firm also successfully listed its first fixed-rated bond offering Php5 billion at the Philippine Dealing and Exchange Corporation last October 7. These bonds earned from Philippine Rating Services Corp. (Philratings) a credit rating of Aa plus with stable outlook. Philratings commended CLI for its sound management and strategies, and competitive advantage in VisMin markets evidenced by continued growth despite the pandemic.
CLI also received multiple accolades including the prestigious PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards (PPA) as the Best Developer in Visayas and the Best Developer in Mindanao for two consecutive years. PPA further awarded special recognition to CLI for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Sustainable Design & Construction.
Founded by Jose Soberano III in 2003, with a vision to provide safe and quality homes for average Filipino workers, Cebu Landmasters started with a single project in the countryside of Cebu. The company has now expanded its portfolio to include offices, hotels and resorts, co-living, mixed-use and townships. Currently, CLI has more than 100 projects in different stages of development in 16 key cities in VisMin.
According to Soberano, one of the reasons behind the company’s growth and success even during the pandemic is the quality of its management team. Among the listed company’s high-caliber executives is the recently conferred 2022 ING-FINEX CFO of the Year, CLI chief finance officer Grant Cheng.
Youngest ING-FINEX CFO of the Year awardee
The 41-year-old Grant Cheng made history as the youngest recipient of the prestigious recognition from the longest-running search honoring the country’s top finance chiefs. Cheng is also the first awardee from a non-conglomerate organization.
Cheng was a star scholar and graduated magna cum laude from De La Salle University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Manufacturing Engineering and Management. He also earned his Masters of Science in Wealth Management with distinction from Singapore Management University and Swiss Finance Institute in Zurich.
Before joining Cebu Landmasters, Cheng was a Senior Deal Manager with a rank of Vice-President at BDO Capital and Investment Corporation. He led his project teams in managing various complex capital market transactions and advised companies in a broad array of industries on corporate restructuring and reorganization. He was also a private banker based in Singapore handling accounts for prestigious individuals and institutions.
Cheng was instrumental in the listing of Cebu Landmasters on the Philippine Stock Exchange. He also led in taking CLI to new heights by establishing the firm’s funding framework, driving massive growth with all-time record cash flow and revenue.
CLI chairman and CEO Jose Soberano III proudly says that Cheng serves as a “vital cog” to the company’s tremendous growth over the years. He highlighted: “Grant is a team player, an across-the-board type of leader. He studies his craft very well. If there are issues that are on his table, he weighs things very carefully before he goes to us to lay down the options, putting in the pluses and the minuses, to be able to arrive at a good decision.”
Cheng ensures CLI’s sustainable growth trajectory through close financial monitoring and strong investor relations. He also engineered the bond offering as a major strategy to sustain CLI’s growth. He is credited for streamlining processes in CLI’s accounting and finance. He is a master strategist, and a catalyst for big improvements within the organization.
Through Cheng’s work ethic as CFO, CLI was able to secure a credit rating upgrade. In June 2022, the Philippine Rating Services Corporation (PhilRatings) assigned an Issue Credit Rating of PRS ‘Aa plus with a stable outlook’ for CLI’s maiden peso-denominated fixed-rate bond issuance of P5 billion. PhilRatings also upgraded the issue credit rating for CLI’s outstanding series ‘A’ to ‘C’ corporate notes worth P5 billion to PRS Aa plus with a stable outlook.
Cheng also played a pivotal role in CLI’s remarkable performance during the pandemic. The company remained profitable through the implementation of cost and budget monitoring processes, along with the establishment of approval limits and authority policies. Cheng ushered digital transformation as well that allowed business to continue. Virtual launches for projects, digital tours and the development of an online collections portal enabled CLI to increase sales even as profit declined—a dip, however, that ranks as the lowest in the industry.
“My philosophy on being a CFO is actually (that) you have to manage your past, present, and future,” Cheng said in an interview with CNN. He clarified that managing the past means that the CFO is a historian of the company. “You have to record everything accurately. That’s accounting. The present are your operations—treasury, disbursement, your collections, payments, tax filing. The future is your financial planning. For real estate, you want to acquire a land, build a building or a subdivision, that’s a 3–5-year project. You want to plan ahead and make sure everything from your costing to your availability of funds are something you’ve planned for the future.”
Cheng said that whenever he sees numbers, he can immediately tell how a company is being run.
“This is why I am at home with Cebu Landmasters, knowing that our company and the family’s values and ethics are consonant with my own. When it comes to character, you cannot separate the personal from the professional. And the standard I strive to instill in CLI is that of a fiduciary.”
For all these achievements, Cheng remains steadfast in meeting the challenges of leading a relatively young company against more established industry players. He said representing a non-conglomerate company is not necessarily an advantage to his win as the ING-FINEX CFO of the Year, but a differentiator.
“I hope it offers the perspective that financial excellence and good governance is not an exclusive reserve of large, mature companies,” he said. “To reach higher levels in business, you should have a good financial operation in place to support that growth.”
To know more about CLI, visit https://www.cebulandmasters.com/.
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