INVESTORS sold PLDT, Inc. last week following fears of the local transmission of the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

A total of 241,540 PLDT shares worth P309.91 million were traded from July 19 to 23, data from the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) showed.

Financial markets were closed on Tuesday in observance of Eid’l Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice.

The share price of one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the country closed at P1,265 apiece, down 2.1% from July 16’s closing of P1,292. For the year, the stock has gone down by 7.2%.

“PLDT was downed [last] week after the reported increase in the spread of the much-feared Delta variant with local transmission that created a negative sentiment among investors,” Diversified Securities, Inc. Equity Trader Aniceto K. Pangan said in a mobile phone message on Friday.

Regina Capital Development Corp. Equity Analyst Anna Corenne M. Agravio said the increasing Delta variant cases of the coronavirus disease in the country prompted a “knee-jerk selldown” of the index heavyweights, which include PLDT.

“While investors welcomed the news of PLDT and Smart’s satellite project as well as the partnership with the Cavite LGU, there was too much negative market sentiment across the board,” Ms. Agravio said in an e-mail.

In a statement earlier last week, PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. expect their planned space-based cellular broadband communication project with US-based AST SpaceMobile, Inc. to boost disaster preparedness efforts in far-flung areas in the country.

This project is seen to reach remote areas in the country to foster online learning, e-commerce, and online banking, as well as Filipinos out at sea, via use of low-earth orbit satellites.

“The collaboration of PLDT and Smart with AST on disaster preparedness is a positive for [PLDT] and Smart as it manifested the reliability of the company systems to manage disaster in key areas,” Mr. Pangan said.

Meanwhile, PLDT said on Thursday it partnered with the Cavite government for a fiber network rollout for the province’s digital road map to become a “Smart City.”

The Cavite government and PLDT group will activate the Cavite Managed Broadband Network Service that will enable Internet to the province’s 23 cities and municipalities, 129 public schools, and 42 public spaces.

Mr. Pangan sees the collaboration to give more confidence to the telco’s investors.

“Turning Cavite into a ‘smart city’ will create more confidence among investors on the company and will further increase its subscribers base on usage and trust after focusing its capex to upgrade its fiber system and wireless speed,” Mr. Pangan said.

However, market sentiment has been dampened after the Department of Health detected local transmission of the more transmissible Delta variant of the COVID-19 on Thursday.

The Health department has recorded 64 Delta variant cases in the country.

On Friday, Malacañang also placed the National Capital Region (NCR), Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Davao de Oro, and Davao del Norte under general community quarantine “with heightened restrictions” to curb the spread of the Delta variant.

“Nonetheless, the upcoming earnings season may give PLDT a bit of a boost in the next coming weeks, assuming the results are upbeat,” Ms. Agravio noted.

PLDT’s attributable net profit dipped by 1.8% to P5.80 billion in the first three months of the year amid lower income from its wireless segment.

Both analysts gave their support and resistance levels for PLDT this week at P1,260 and P1,300, respectively.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Bernadette Therese M. Gadon