THE PLDT group announced on Wednesday the first closing on its landmark sale and leaseback towers agreement involving 3,012 telecom towers, or more than half of the towers being monetized.

The group received the “corresponding cash consideration of approximately P39.2 billion,” PLDT, Inc. told the stock exchange.

At the same time, the company announced that the master services agreements covering the leaseback arrangements for those towers “became effective.”

“PLDT foresees additional closings in the next few months as the transaction is staggered based on number of towers being transferred, with final closing expected by Q4 (fourth quarter) 2022,” the company noted.

To recall, the group announced in April that its subsidiaries, Smart Communications, Inc. and Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc., had signed sale and purchase deals in connection with the sale of 5,907 telecom towers and related passive telecom infrastructure for P77 billion to the subsidiaries of international telecommunications infrastructure services companies edotco Group and EdgePoint.

The 5,907 towers — almost half of PLDT’s total tower portfolio — are spread across the Philippines, with 2,973 being acquired by ISOC edotco Towers, Inc., a subsidiary of edotco Group, and 2,934 towers by Comworks Infratech Corp., a subsidiary of EdgePoint.

With the proceeds from the transaction, the PLDT group aims to prepay P27.5 billion in debt maturing this year.

This also means that the group will no longer need to borrow P24.5 billion that will be used for its capital expenditures and other investment requirements, according PLDT Chief Finance Officer Anabelle L. Chua.

“Originally, based on our plans, we would have had to borrow; but this time, we can avoid doing that with the proceeds that we’ll generate from this transaction,” she said at a recent briefing.

The company also expects to see a payment of special dividends of up to P9 billion to its shareholders.

“As the largest ever acquisition of assets in the Philippines by international investors, this investment by international tower operators represents a strong endorsement of the country’s recovery from the pandemic and its long-term growth prospects,” PLDT said.

“This pioneer undertaking also supports the Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology’s goal of improving tower density which will lead to significant efficiencies and improved connectivity across the Philippines,” it added.

PLDT shares closed 0.37% higher at P1,907 apiece on Wednesday.

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.— Arjay L. Balinbin