WHILE most businessmen prefer to do business from Manila, Dennis Uy wants to do business close to home in Davao City.
Early this year, Uy—founder, president and CEO of the Davao City based Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc.—gave honor to the city as a vehicle for his success receiving the Datu Bago Award for 2013.
“While many prefer to do business or find employment in bigger cities, to me Davao is richer in opportunity and richer in producing the elements of success than any place I know,” he said in his acceptance speech.
With Uy at the helm, Phoenix has grown to be the number one independent oil company in the Philippines in just seven years. From being the top 570th corporation in 2006, Phoenix has risen to the 53rd spot in 2011. It has also been recognized by the Bureau of Customs as the Top 7 Importer in the country for 2011 and 2012, and the Top 1 Importer in the port of Davao in the past two years.
Strong Track Record
Uy is an entrepreneur and senior executive with a strong track record of starting and leading his businesses to profit and growth since graduating from De La Salle University, Manila with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management in 1993.
He is the Chairman, President and CEO of Udenna Corporation, the holding company of Phoenix Petroleum Holdings, Inc. (PPHI) and Udenna Management & Resources Corp. (UMRC), since its incorporation in 2002. Mr. Uy has steered Udenna Group’s expansion to businesses in the transport, petroleum, distribution, shipping, real estate, waste management services, and power industries.
The Group’s consolidated revenues reached more than P15 billion in 2010. For these achievements, Mr. Uy was recognized as a Finalist in the 10th Asia Business Leaders Award by CNBC Asia, 2011 in Singapore. “I don’t know if we would have accomplished what we have accomplished if I grew up somewhere else, but I do know that Davao and Dabawenyos have been an indispensable part of everything that we have achieved,” Uy said. Even as Phoenix has grown to be a national brand, its headquarters remain firmly in Davao City.
“Our city is simply a better place to live, work, and prosper,” Uy said. “We have enlightened, disciplined and competent leadership, talented people, growing infrastructure, and an ideal balance between work and life. Indeed, before President Aquino advocated for ‘daang matuwid,’ it has already been ‘daang matuwid’ here in Davao for the longest time,” he said.
Uy recalled that he started what became Phoenix Petroleum in challenging circumstances. Back then, the business was a single storage tank, 11 employees, and no revenue stream. Still, he gave it a try. “I remained confident that I was surrounded by a community, a government, and an ideal that would be indispensable to our success,” he said.
Uy recalled that after the Oil Deregulation Law was passed in 1998, he saw independent oil companies that were not of the major sprout in Manila. He said he sensed a good business opportunity to bring to Davao, although he admitted it was not an easy start. “The oil deregulation law paved the way for the birth of Phoenix. Without it we wouldn’t be here! The decision was very simple. The industry used to be dominated by three companies, and when you open up an industry where it was dominated by only three companies, there’s really a big chance for us to get market share. Uy said he had then difficulty raising capital and attracting clients. His big break came when Cebu Pacific committed to lease his tanks. This was the start of Phoenix becoming their exclusive logistics provider in all their Mindanao flights.
Uy said he decided to expand to retail, and in 2005, the first five Phoenix stations opened in southern Mindanao. “For us to start in the southern part of the Philippines was not by choice, it was by chance. It was just that I do my business there, I was born there. We started there, and luckily we were able to expand nationwide. It’s always a challenge, even until now, to gain brand acceptability…” Uy said in an online interview.
To expand the company’s financial capability, Phoenix Petroleum listed at the Philippine Stock Exchanged in July 2007, becoming the first, and, so far, only oil company to launch its initial public offering after the Oil Deregulation Law was passed. Phoenix is also one of the few Mindanao companies to be traded at the PSE.
The very successful IPO gave Phoenix the capital it needed to expand, and since then the company has grown significantly.
Compound annual growth rates of revenue have risen by 65 percent, volume by 67 percent, market capitalization by 84 percent, and equity by 50 percent. Cumulative returns of the PNX stock in the five years from its IPO has been over 400 percent.
From its initial five stations, Phoenix has expanded to 300 nationwide by the end of 2012, making it the number one independent oil company.
For his leadership, Uy has received citations in the country and in the Asian region: as finalist in the Asia Business Leaders Award by CNBC Asia for 2011 and 2012; finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 Philippines; and now the Datu Bago Award in Davao City. He is also the Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan to the Philippines, having been appointed in 2011.
Uy attributed the speed of Phoenix’s growth to “an entrepreneurial-based opportunity to build the future of the downstream petroleum industry, a nurturing and encouraging beginning in our hometown environment, and a commitment to and indispensable relationship with our community, our business partners, our shareholders, and above all, our customers.”
“It’s always our service and our people that are a distinct advantage,” Uy said.
Uy also plays an active role in various business organizations. He is a Member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), American Chamber of Commerce- Davao City, and Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He is married to Cherylyn C. Uy, and has two daughters: Chelsea Denise and Charlize Donatella.
Looking ahead, Uy says he hopes to sustain the growth of the company.
“The next five years should be a period of growth – maybe a bigger market share, more stations: going from 300 to at least 500. And of course, having a more established brand, and a stronger company, balance-sheet wise.“Other Asian countries have three or five times more stations per capita…there’s a lot of room for growth,” he said.