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Bullish PLDT to increase capex for 2019

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PLDT, Inc. is optimistic for 2019, as it readies a bigger capital expenditure (capex) budget to further expand its network.

Manuel V. Pangilinan, PLDT chairman, president and chief executive officer, told reporters last week that the company’s board agreed in late December to increase PLDT’s capex budget this year to surpass the P58 billion spent in 2018.

“The budget was presented to the board late December… It’s hard to comment. We’ll release our numbers. But all I can say is it’s higher than 2018,” he said on the sidelines of Meralco’s eSakay launch in Makati City on Friday.

The PLDT chief said the higher investment will be used for the continued buildout of its network, noting the telco has practically finished its third generation network (3G) rollout and is pushing its fourth generation network (4G) further.

“You’ve seen the latest OpenSignal report. We’re number 1 in terms of speed. We’re almost equal to our competitor in terms of coverage. But I think we will… at least we equal this year. And then big push on FTTH (fiber to the home) and fiberization of our legacy copper cables,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

In its August 2018 report, wireless coverage mapping firm OpenSignal said PLDT’s wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. edged Globe Telecom, Inc. in terms of download speed using 4G, recording a speed of 13.02 megabits per second (Mbps) against Globe’s 7.34 Mbps. But in terms of 4G availability, Globe trumped Smart with 67.79% likelihood of finding a 4G connection, versus Smart’s 64%.




At the same time, Mr. Pangilinan is optimistic PLDT can maintain its growth momentum and reduce the losses from unit Voyager Innovations, Inc.

“Good numbers for 2018, and I think I’m optimistic about 2019. Improving numbers,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

“I must say the numbers we’ve seen yearend for both PayMaya, FINTQ and freenet have turned out to be very good. So I think 2019 will be a heavy volume year… The plan is to push the business as much as we can,” he added.

PayMaya, FINTQ and freenet are some of the services handled by Voyager, the digital arm of PLDT which posted a loss of P1.8 billion in the nine months ending September.

For the January to September period, PLDT’s net attributable income fell 26% to P16.27 billion due to an accelerated depreciation of P4.5 billion related to its network assets. Its revenues were up 3% at P123.15 billion on the back of higher revenues from data services.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Denise A. Valdez