When you drive around Bonifacio Global City (BGC), you will surely notice those towering buildings with the huge W emblems. The buildings after all, stand out in one of Metro Manila’s most coveted urban landscapes.
These buildings are headquarters to some of the world’s biggest companies—from a US-based financial services company to a behemoth global tech firm and many other big local and foreign players.
The W Group, through its real estate arm WBGC or W Landmark Inc., established these iconic premium Grade A buildings in one of the busiest, most sustainable and thriving central business districts in the country, BGC in Taguig City.
I was once looking for the Cork Wine Bar and Shop, a charming place that offers the finest selection of wines and whiskies and curates a gastronomic adventure for food lovers.
It is in one of the W Buildings and when I asked a roving guard for the location of a “W Building” the guard said there’s quite a number of W Buildings in BGC. I needed to be more specific, he said.
Indeed, there are six: The Citi Plaza, with a floor area of 49,163 square meters; WFifth Avenue with a floor area of 36,026 sqm; WCityCentre with 59,032 sqm; WGlobalCenter with 9,592 sqm; WHighstreet with 11,632 sqm and WTower with 11,658 sqm for a total WBGC footprint of roughly 176,000 sqm.
These buildings are occupied by long-term, high-quality local and global marquee tenants who are leaders in their various industries.
W stands for Wee because the group behind this is the Wee family. Norman Vincent Wee is the president of the W Group while his brother Francis Augustus Wee is the CEO.
They are the sons of H. E. Lee Hiong Wee, the Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia. Norman is the second in a brood of six while Francis is the youngest.
The Wee family is no stranger to business. Like most Chinese-Filipinos in the Philippines, the Wees are an entrepreneurial family.
The W Group is the holding company for the family’s leading business groups: W Hydrocolloids Inc., a world-class manufacturer of seaweed carrageenan; Marine Resources Development Corp., one of the leading providers of innovative food ingredient solutions and products in the Philippines and WBGC, W Group’s property management and real estate development business.
Norman is president of WBGC since 2017 after serving as the company’s CFO for six years while Francis is the founder and CEO of WBGC.
With the Wee brothers at the helm, WBGC has secured several world-class property certifications, proving the company’s commitment to operating at par with global standards.
The potential of BGC
While there are already several property companies in the country with so many office leasing arms, the Wee brothers, in an interview with Property Report, said one major advantage of the W Group is that it was one of the pioneer developers in BGC.
BGC is undoubtedly an enviable location between Makati City and Pasig City, which was further accentuated by the recent completion of the BGC-Ortigas Center Road Link Project.
The 961.427-linear meter flagship infrastructure project is expected to effectively reduce travel time from BGC to Ortigas Center to just 12 minutes from the usual 45 minutes to one hour, making it easier and faster to travel to and from the two major business destinations.
Other major infrastructure developments to connect BGC to other parts of the metro and provide more convenient mobility options to BGC residents and commuters are the Metro Manila Subway System, BGC-NAIA Bus Rapid Transit System and the Skytrain – monorail link from BGC to Guadalupe, Makati.
Norman added that BGC is flood-free and maintains more than 30 percent of the area for wide open spaces, making it one of the best, if not the best central business district in Metro Manila.
The business district is also neat and organized; you won’t see telecommunication or electrical wires dangling between buildings. Pedestrians use the designated areas for walking and crossing and there are enough parking spaces for locators and visitors alike.
“We’re indeed very bullish about the prospects for BGC,” Francis added.
Build to suit
Another plus point for the W Group is that it is very tenant-oriented. The company can develop its buildings based on the requirements of its tenants. These are build to suit developments whereas other buildings provide spaces that are already finished and ready for occupancy.
It is therefore no surprise that multinational giants have chosen W Buildings to set up their offices and even regional headquarters.
“We have one of the biggest New York-based financial giants and one of the biggest tech companies in the world,” Francis said.
But the W Group does not stop there. It constantly invests and upgrades its buildings to improve the overall environment in its developments.
During the pandemic, for instance, the W Group used the time to further upgrade its facilities to make the environment even better for its tenants and the tenants’ clients.
Because of its focus on tenants’ needs, the W Group is able to secure long-term contracts like say, 15-year lease contracts, way above the usual five-year contracts in the industry.
Moving forward, the Wees said the group would continue to build more developments in BGC in addition to the six buildings already existing.
And take note, the W buildings are not only sleek, classy and well-designed, they are also sustainable and environment-friendly—which is a plus point for tenants as it reduces their operating costs and their carbon footprint.
These factors are what global shareholders are increasingly looking for in companies.
To date, W Group properties have two platinum LEED Certifications for Citi Plaza and a Gold LEED certification for W City Center.
Aside from these, the company has also been conferred with ISO 9001:2015 certification for quality management across its premiere boutique office buildings.
These are just some of the main qualities that tenants look for in an office landlord.
Against this backdrop, I wouldn’t be surprised if the W Group decides to go public one day through a real estate investment trust (REIT) listing.
The REIT landscape in the country after all, is fast developing and developers like W Group can hitch a ride on this growing momentum.
The W Group already has an advantage with its strongest points: tenant-oriented, its buildings are in the much coveted BGC area and its buildings are sustainable.
The company also owns the land where the building stands, providing even more value for investors. That is, if the W Group decides to do a REIT listing in the future.
In any case, the W Group is certainly a group to watch and with the solid Wee brothers tandem at the helm, the company can certainly soar to greater heights, even higher than its towering buildings.