By Arjay L. Balinbin

PLDT, Inc. is allocating P83 billion for capital expenditures (capex) this year, 36.1% higher than last year’s figure, to serve better the “fast-growing” data usage of its customers, the company’s top official said on Thursday.

It also reported a 19% growth in attributable net income to P22.52 billion in 2019, from the previous year’s P18.92 billion, driven by higher revenues from its data and broadband services.

PLDT Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Manuel V. Pangilinan said in a briefing in Makati City on Thursday that the company is “hoping for a double-digit growth in its revenues” this year despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and the Taal Volcano eruption in January.

He said the coronavirus outbreak has not affected any of PLDT’s business as “the numbers were looking good in the first two months.”

“We are quite optimistic that 2020 will be a better year for us than 2019,” he added.

As for his assessment of PLDT’s performance in 2019, he said: “We used to be riding on the back of a donkey, now it’s probably a race horse.”

On this year’s capex, Mr. Pangilinan said: “To raise even further our service quality standards and attain unmatched customer experience (CX), PLDT has allocated a larger capex budget of P83 billion for 2020.”

He said P64.6 billion of the amount will be used for the company’s network and IT projects.

“In addition, P18.5 billion, inclusive of P5.5 billion carried over from 2019, are to be spent for broadband installations, which are projected to grow strongly in 2020,” he added.

For 2019, PLDT said had spent P72.9 billion of the P78.4 billion capex it had set for the year. Of the amount, P61 billion went to its network and IT expansion and transformation programs while P11.9 billion was used for the installation of broadband connections.

PLDT likewise reported that its telco core income, which excludes the impact of asset sales and Voyager Innovations, grew 13% to P27.08 billion from 2018’s P24.05 billion.

Service revenues grew 8% to P157.7 billion. The bulk or 67% of this came from data services.

Revenues from domestic voice fell 5% to P39.7 billion, while short message service (SMS) revenues plunged 16% to P8.6 billion. Revenues from international voice also went down 32% to P4.3 billion.

PLDT’s enterprise group contributed P39.2 billion, up by 5% from the previous year.

PLDT Home added P37.2 billion or 3% more from 2018, and wireless segment P72.1 billion or 20% higher.

“Despite continuing challenges, 2019 was a productive year, with revenues reaching record levels on the back of robust growth of our consumer wireless business. This was achieved in large part by making the needed investments in our data and IT networks. Moving forward, we shall continue pursuing a focused investment program to further improve our services, and consequently raise the level of customer experience,” Mr. Pangilinan said.