How Villar gained control of channels formerly held by ABS-CBN

Warren De Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2022 09:21 PM | Updated as of Jan 27 2022 08:07 AM

Manny Villar at the sidelines of the Makati Business Club Forum at the Makati, Shangri-La, March 07, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Manny Villar at the sidelines of the Makati Business Club Forum at the Makati, Shangri-La, March 07, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - On January 5, Advanced Media Broadcasting Systems Inc (ABMS) took control of two channels that ABS-CBN once used. 

Channel 2, which ABS-CBN used for its analog broadcasts, and Channel 16, which the company used for its digital TV broadcast, were transferred to AMBS on the order of the National Telecommunications Commission.

AMBS, which operates the FM station K-Lite, is owned by Planet Cable, a firm owned and operated by billionaire Manny Villar, one of the biggest supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The board of directors of Planet Cable is chaired by Cynthia J. Javarez, who sits as Treasurer and Chief Risk Officer of the Villar family’s listed real estate developer Vista Land and Lifescapes and retail mall operator VistaMalls. 

Planet Cable’s controlling shareholders are Prime Asset Ventures, and Streamtech Systems Technologies, both controlled by the Villar group.

The company builds, operates and maintains cable, television and other related systems and services, covering the Villar group’s many real estate developments across Luzon and Visayas. 

The NTC said AMBS had applied for a permit to build and operate a digital TV broadcasting system in Metro Manila as early as October 2006. 

In 2019, AMBS was granted a 25-year congressional franchise and sought government approval to sell itself to the Villar group.

At the end of 2020, AMBS had suffered a net loss of over P3 million, based on its latest SEC filings. 

Planet Cable on the other hand lodged total revenues of P712.8 million in 2020, up substantially from 2019’s total sales of P445 million. Planet Cable’s SEC filings show its net profit in 2020 was P164.2 million, more than double 2019’s P69.3 million. Its total assets amounted to P3.6 billion. 

On Sept. 6, 2021, the House of Representatives approved the sale of AMBS to Planet Cable.

Planet Cable has substantial financial muscle compared to AMBS. It can also raise more capital through its principal, former Senator Manny Villar, who is listed as the richest man in the Philippines and valued at $7.3 billion by Forbes. 

The Villar group has yet to respond to requests for comment. 

AMBS has 18 months, or until 2023 to prove it can put up and run a digital television broadcasting system, or risk losing its provisional authority to use the frequencies previously held by ABS-CBN.

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