By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

PLDT, Inc. on Thursday said it expects more than P50 billion from the sale of its 6,000 towers to global tower companies this year, which will be used to pay down debts.

PLDT also announced that its capital expenditure (capex) guidance for the year has been set at P76 billion to P80 billion, lower than the P89 billion capex last year.

“We’re pleased to report that the bids we’ve received are north of the P50 billion mark, so that should provide us with a bit of liquidity to reduce debts moving forward,” PLDT Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said during a briefing.

Alfredo S. Panlilio, president and chief executive officer of PLDT and its unit Smart Communications, Inc., said six global tower companies are vying for the towers, which will be awarded in the second quarter of the year.

“These players have massive investments globally,” he noted.

The PLDT group has around 12,000 towers nationwide.

PLDT Chief Finance Officer Anabelle L. Chua said that capex for 2022 is expected to be lower by up to P13 billion and to decline to below 40% of service revenues.

“One of the major goals this year is to realize positive free cashflow,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

The company also expects its consolidated service revenues to grow by mid-single-digit in 2022 and telco core income, which excludes the impact of asset sales and Voyager Innovations, Inc., to be up to P33 billion.

PLDT’s net income for 2021, which includes exceptional costs, grew by P2.1 billion or 9% to P26.4 billion.

Its total service revenues for 2021 went up 6% to P182.1 billion from P171.5 billion in 2020.

“2021 proved to be record-breaking year for PLDT as we delivered all-time highs across the board despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, calamities and hyper competition,” Mr. Panlilio said.

Broken down, revenues from the company’s consumer and enterprise segments increased 7% to P176.1 billion from P165.3 billion.

Its telco core income rose 8% to P30.2 billion last year from P28.1 billion in 2020.

The company’s EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, reached P96.2 billion in 2021, up 8% from P88.8 billion previously.

Mr. Pangilinan said: “We are determined to strengthen our financial standing as we focus on generating positive free cashflow.”

“After years of massive spending on infrastructure, we are transitioning to a more deliberate approach to our capital expenditures, having built the country’s most extensive networks. We are also renewing efforts to throttle down on operating expenses to further enhance our EBITDA,” he added.

PLDT shares rose 4.57% or P80 to close at P1,830 apiece on Thursday.

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.