PLDT says bids for telco tower sale higher than P50 billion

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 03 2022 07:41 PM

MANILA - PLDT Inc is getting over P50 billion bids for the sale of about 6,000 cell towers as part of its efforts to improve cash flow, officials said Thursday.

The total tower network will be broken down into 2 portfolios with 3,000 towers each, PLDT president and CEO Al Panlilio told reporters. 

"As the chairman indicated, there are reports out there indicating between $800 million to $1 billion (P41.1 billion to P51.4 billion). But what we're seeing from the bids the other day are higher than that," Panlilio said.

"We think a lot of due diligence was done, and I think they see the value that we're seeing today and that's reflected in the amounts of bids we have received," he added.

Most of the bidders are "foreign common tower players" and "well-funded entities" that are planning to become a common tower operator in the country, Panlilio said.

In its year-end financial report, PLDT, which reported a core telco net income of P30.2 billion in 2021, said it was in the process of monetizing tower assets to improve cash flow and reduce debts. 

The government earlier pushed for the entry of common tower players to accelerate the build of telco infrastructure in the country. The Department of Information and Communications Technology has partnered with several telco tower builders for the initiative.

There is "strong interest" in the sale of cell towers since it would be a "game-changer" for the buyers planning to start a common tower business in the country, PLDT chairman Manny Pangilinan said. 

"This gives any buyer an ability to build a tower business here," he added.

Pangilinan however clarified that "it's not a total let go" but rather a "symbiotic relationship." 

The telco said it would sell the towers or "passive equipment", but other assets needed to provide 4G or 5G will still be owned by the company.

"We will build more towers as the business develops," Pangilinan added.

The DICT in 2020 said telcos should take advantage of the common tower initiative to be able to expand services to unserved and underserved areas. 

Common towers can be used or leased by different providers. It also lessens capital expenditure since they don't have to build the infrastructure.

During the pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte approved measures to reduce obstruction and hasten the permitting process for telco builds.

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